The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JMPL) will hear oral arguments next month regarding the proposed consolidation of Propecia side effects lawsuits in a multidistrict litigation (MDL) before one federal judge. Currently, more than 50 lawsuits alleging use of Propecia caused men to suffer erectile dysfunction and other permanent or long-lasting sexual problems are pending in courts throughout the country.
As we’ve reported in the past, Propecia (finasteride 1mg), a popular male hair loss drug marketed by Merck & Co., is part of a class of drugs known as 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, or 5-ARIs. 5-ARIs like Propecia work by preventing the conversion of androgen testosterone to DHT, a hormone critical to male sexual performance. Merck markets another 5-ARI called Proscar (finasteride 5 mg) that is used to treat enlarged prostate.
Recently, a growing number of lawsuits have been filed around the country alleging Merck failed to warn users about the serious side effects, including erectile dysfunction, low libido, problems with orgasm, infertility, depression and suicide, associated with Propecia. The U.S. warning label for Propecia indicates that such side effects are temporary, and will subside once patients stop using the drug. However, in 2008, Merck changed the Propecia label in Sweden to warn that the drug could lead to permanent erectile dysfunction. Similar changes were made to the labels in the U.K. and Italy in 2009 and 2010.
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.
Many plaintiffs involved in Propecia lawsuits, along with Merck, have agreed that the claims should be consolidated in an MDL, but they disagree on a venue for the litigation. One plaintiff has filed a motion with the JPML seeking to have the cases transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. But Merck has moved to have the Propecia lawsuits consolidated in New Jersey, as 41 of the 53 lawsuits currently pending were filed in that state. The Panel will hear oral arguments on the matter on March 29, in San Diego, California
An MDL allows lawsuits associated with a particular product to be coordinated under one judge for pretrial litigation to avoid duplicative discovery, inconsistent rulings and to conserve the resources of the parties, witnesses and the court. When lawsuits are consolidated as a multidistrict litigation, each retains its own identity. If the multidistrict litigation process does not resolve the cases, they are transferred back to the court where they originated for trial.