February 14, 2012 — The pharmaceutical company Merck Co. is facing a lawsuit brought by more than 50 people who claim that they suffered sexual dysfunction after taking a drug for male-pattern baldness. The company sold the drugs under the brand-name Propecia, Proscar, or generic finasteride.
On January 27, 2012, a federal judge consolidated the lawsuits in St. Louis Circuit Court. People from 22 states had filed complaints against Merck regarding sexual side effects caused by Propecia and other drugs. In each of the complains, the plaintiffs claim that they suffered persistent, serious side effects that the drug company did not include in the safety information on the medication. Each of the plaintiffs suffered a serious side effect, such as depression, cognitive impairment, or sexual dysfunction.
Though Merck had already updated the safety labeling to include risk information about erectile dysfunction caused by its baldness drugs, many people have suffered other sexual side effects, including reduced libido, infertility, and reduced sensation.
Some studies have found that as many as 39% of men taking the drugs suffer sexual dysfunction, and many of those men suffer persistent sexual dysfunction that does not improve after they stop taking the medication. It is possible that millions of men are taking these medications and they are unaware of the serious side effects.
One problem with inadequate labeling is that many men do not make the link that the drug they are taking to treat hair loss is causing their sexual dysfunction.
Finasteride, the active drug in Propecia and other hair-loss drugs, interacts with testosterone and converts to another chemical, which shrinks hair follicles.
Many of the people bringing the complaint against Merck are angry because they say the company has actively avoided warning patients about the possible risks of sexual dysfunction. Many of the people involved in the litigation are the wives of men who suffered sexual dysfunction caused by these medications. The women say they, too, suffered injury caused by the drug company’s actions and the effects of the drugs on their husbands.