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Why Did Merck Pull Propecia Website?

Feb 9, 2012 | Parker Waichman LLP

As of February 8, Merck & Co.'s website for Propecia (finasteride 1mg), a prescription drug for male pattern baldness, is no longer available to the public.   Now, some in the legal community are speculating that Merck may have pulled because of the growing controversy - and litigation - over Propecia's sexual side effects.

At last count, 53 lawsuits have been filed throughout the country by men who claim Merck failed to warn consumers of the risks of long-term erectile dysfunction from Propecia, as well as loss of libido, infertility, anxiety, depression and other problems. While Merck's label for Propecia in Europe has warned for several years now that sexual side effects may persist after men stop using the drug, warnings on the U.S. label indicate they are only temporary.

Last Spring, a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that at men who take finasteride may develop an ongoing loss of libido and orgasm, even after they go off the medication. The study looked at 71 men who reported such side effects. The average duration of persistent sexual side effects was 40 months after they stopped taking finasteride. About 20 percent of the men still had side effects more than six years after stopping finasteride.

At least one plaintiff's attorney believes that the growing litigation over Propecia prompted Merck to pull its Propecia website earlier this month.

“One reason for Merck’s abrupt action might have something to do with the fact that a growing number of lawsuits are being filed against the company,” the attorney told the Baltimore edition of the Examiner.

It's also possible that Merck took the website down because it will be adding new warnings to the Propecia label.  Revise warnings would likely prompt more men to file Propecia lawsuits, once they made the connection between their sexual problems and use of the drug.

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