The litigation involving serious and sometimes catastrophic side effects of the hair loss drug Propecia is moving forward, with the selection of bellwether cases.
In such large litigations, representative cases—bellwether cases—are chosen to be the first to go to trial. The outcome of bellwether trials are not binding on other cases, but these early cases give the parties a chance to see how juries will respond to evidence and testimony that would be presented repeatedly as other cases go to trial. When a trend emerges in the bellwether outcomes, this can facilitate settlement negotiations.
Propecia Linked to Suicidal Thoughts and Sexual Side Effects
Propecia (finasteride) and Proscar (the stronger dosage) have been prescribed to more than one million men in the United States to treat male pattern baldness and enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia). But the drug has been linked to serious and sometimes devastating side effects. Men have experienced sexual side effects and suicidal thoughts, with some men actually committing suicide.
In 2015, Health Canada, Canada’s national health agency, noted that the World Health Organization had received 170 reports of suicidal thoughts and 56 reports of suicides linked to Propecia (finasteride).
In addition to suicidal thoughts, research studies have linked Propecia to sexual side effects in men, including:
- erectile dysfunction (ED)
- loss of sex drive
- low libido
- inability to achieve orgasm
Drug maker Merck & Co. currently faces more than twelve hundred lawsuits filed by men who suffered one or more adverse health effects as a result of taking Propecia. The plaintiffs accuse Merck of failing to warn patients that the sexual side effects may be permanent, continuing even after the man stopped taking the drug.
The 1 mg dose of finasteride—brand name Propecia—received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in 1997 to treat male pattern baldness. At a higher dose, under the name Proscar, finasteride is prescribed for benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate) and urinary problems. Finasteride is a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor (5-ARI). Propecia’s active ingredient can interfere with male hormones, including testosterone derivatives.
First Propecia Trial Expected in Fall 2017
More than a thousand lawsuits have been consolidated for pretrial proceedings in a multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the federal court in the Eastern District of New York. The first cases are expected to be ready to go to trial in fall 2017, a year later than originally expected.
During the pretrial proceedings, plaintiffs hope to obtain information about how much Merck knew about the alleged side effects and when it had that information. In Europe, the label for Propecia was reportedly changed in 2008 to note that some side effects could be persistent. In the U.S., however, the label was not changed until 2012, Lawyers and Settlements reports.
For some patients, Propecia side effects reverse when the man stops taking Propecia, other patients say the side effects persist. In some cases, the men say, the side effects continue to get worse even when they are no longer taking the drug. Propecia’s effect on hair loss continues only as long as the man takes the drug and many men are reluctant to give up the drug. Some doctors say the side effects are rare and they believe Propecia’s benefits are worth the risks.
In 2012, the FDA announced changes to Propecia’s label to warn about the risk of sexual disorders, including libido, ejaculation, and orgasm disorders. When it announced the changes, however, the FDA noted that causal links were not established and further noted that only a small percentage of men experienced these sexual side effects. Until the FDA ordered that label change, warnings provided to U.S. users of the drug suggested that these problems typically resolve. At the time of the label change, CBS News reported that the FDA had received 421 reports of sexual dysfunction linked to Propecia or Proscar. Fifty-nine of those men reported that the side effects did not subside for at least three months after they discontinued Proscar or Propecia.
An article about the Propecia litigation in Vice in November 2016 shares the story of Eric Carlos Rodriguez, who committed suicide early this year. His family blames Propecia for his death.
Legal Help for Men Suffering Serious Propecia Side Effects
If you are a man who has experienced suicidal thoughts, sexual dysfunction or sexual side effects after taking Propecia or Proscar, the drug-injury attorneys at Parker Waichman may be able to help. Men who have experienced Propecia side effects should contact the firm for a free, no obligation, and confidential case evaluation. To reach Parker Waichman, fill out the firm’s online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).