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Grieving Father Says Propecia Sexual Side Effects Led to Son's Suicide

May 30, 2012 | Parker Waichman LLP

Earlier this month, a grieving doctor joined a protest outside Merck & Co.'s New Jersey headquarters to raise awareness about the potential for the company's male baldness drug, Propecia, to cause serious and long-lasting sexual side effects in some men.  According to a report from the Baltimore Courts Examiner, Dr. John Santmann claims that impotence caused by Propecia led to his son's suicide.

According to Dr. Santmann, his son, Randy, was just 22-years-old when he took his life.  He told the Examiner that Randy had become despondent, thanks to the Propecia side effects.

"He wasn’t really depressed. He was in a zombie state. He didn’t want to live in this mentally crippled state,” Dr. Santmann told the Examiner while protesting outside Merck & Co.'s headquarters.

Dr. Santmann had joined Las Vegas resident Kevin Malley, 30, who began a one-man hunger strike earlier this month to protest Merck's handling of Propecia.  According to Malley, even though the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recently added warnings to the Propecia label regarding its potential to cause long-lasting sexual side effects, most men and doctors are unaware of the risks.

In April, the Propecia label was updated to include information about libido disorders, ejaculation disorders, and orgasm disorders that continued after discontinuation of the drug. Merck changed the Propecia label in Europe several years ago to warn that the drug could lead to permanent erectile dysfunction. But until last month, warnings provided to U.S. users of the drug suggested that these problems typically resolve.

According to Malley, the U.S. label warnings are still inadequate, because there is no information regarding the mental effects and genital shrinking experienced by some users.

Propecia's sexual side effects have prompted some men to file suit against Merck & Co.  Recently, all federally-filed Propecia lawsuits were transferred to U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, for coordinated pre-trial proceedings.  The Propecia multidistrict litigation is being presided over by U.S. District Judge John Gleeson. All the actions involve allegations that use of Propecia causes persistent sexual dysfunction in a subset of men who took the drug, even after they discontinued its use.

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