Another Propecia Lawsuit Claims Baldness Drug Caused Sexual Problems

An unidentified man in Colorado has filed suit against the maker of <"">Propecia, claiming the male baldness drug caused him to suffer erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems. The claim, brought in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, is just the latest Propecia lawsuit filed against Merck & Co. by men who say that the drug caused sexual issues.

Propecia (known generically as finasteride 1 mg) is part of a class of drugs called 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, or 5-ARIs. Other drugs in this class including Merck’s Proscar (finasteride 5 mg), and GlaxoSmithKline’s Avodart (dutasteride) and Jalyn (dutasteride and tamsulosin) are manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline. While Propecia is used to treat male pattern baldness, other 5 ARIs are used to treat enlarged prostate. According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), almost 5 million men were prescribed one of these medications between 2002 and 2009.

Propecia and these other drugs work by preventing the conversion of androgen testosterone to DHT, a hormone critical to male sexual performance. Merck’s label for Propecia warns that side effects may include sexual dysfunction but says the side effects “resolve after discontinued use of the drug.” While the Propecia label in Europe was updated in 2008 to warn of “persistent” sexual side effects, no such update has occurred in the U.S.

In March, a group of researchers at Boston University published a study finding that in a small number of cases, erectile dysfunction linked to 5-ARIs may continue after the drugs have been discontinued. The study, which involved a review of available medical literature, found that 8 percent of men taking 5-ARIs reported erectile dysfunction and 4.2 percent reported reduced libido. In the placebo group, only 4 percent reported erectile dysfunction, while only 1.8 percent reported reduced libido. Other men taking the drugs reported reduced ejaculation and semen volume and depression. In some cases, men experienced problems after taking the drugs.

According to the Colorado lawsuit, plaintiff “John Doe” experienced after using Propecia. The lawsuit charges Merck with negligence, failure to warn, designing and manufacturing a defective product, misrepresentation, breach of warranty and other charges. The plaintiff seeks compensatory damages for medical expenses, disfigurement, pain and suffering, mental anguish and emotional distress.

Sexual dysfunction is not the only side affect associated with 5-ARIs like Propecia. Earlier this summer, the FDA warned that the drugs had been linked to a higher risk of high-grade prostate cancer. Such drugs may also increase the risk that users will develop male breast cancer.

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