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Wrongful Death Lawsuit Alleges Merck Hid Propecia Suicide Risk

Mar 11, 2015

According to documents filed in federal court in California, a Propecia-induced suicide led to a wrongful death lawsuit against Merck & Co., the drug’s manufacturer.

The widow of a 40-year-old man who killed himself in 2013 by stepping in front of an oncoming train alleges in the lawsuit that Propecia triggers suicidal thoughts and depression in some users, Law360 reports. The suit claims the company did not include information about those side effects on the drug’s label or in the literature Merck distributed about Propecia. The lawsuit filed on March 5 in California's Southern District, asks for damages for the widow and her two young children.

Propecia (finasteride) was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1997 for use in males only to treat male pattern hair loss. The man who died took the drug for several years. He fell into a deep depression that persisted even after he stopped taking Propecia in 2012, and he struggled with insomnia and other symptoms, according to Law360. In March 2013 he walked to the train tracks a block from his home and stepped in front of an oncoming Amtrak train. An attorney representing the family said the family "was robbed of a husband and father, all because of the disturbing silence of a drug company that surely knows of these side effects and its responsibility to alert users to them."

The lawsuit cites studies that demonstrate a connection between Propecia and deep depression and suicidal thoughts, but Merck did not add warnings about depression or suicidal thoughts until 2010. The man began taking a one-milligram dose of Propecia daily in 2008 and started exhibiting strange behavior in 2009, according to court documents. The widow said that by 2011 her husband was "unrecognizable." He had no sex drive; he was short-tempered, anxious, depressed, and he experienced an uncharacteristic weight gain. The symptoms did not abate after he stopped taking Propecia in early 2012, Law360 reports. He resigned suddenly in January 2013 from a company he had helped build and two months later he killed himself.

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