A 30-year-old Las Vegas man who says his life was ruined after taking the hair-loss drug Propecia has launched a hunger strike at the corporate headquarters of the drug’s maker — pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. located in Whitehouse Station, N.J.
Kevin Malley, a former public-health researcher from Las Vegas, flew to New Jersey from his hometown on May 10 and ceased eating on May 13 in protest of Merck’s failure to acknowledge Propecia’s role in causing persistent and devastating male sexual side effects even after taking the drug has been discontinued.
Malley says he plans to continue going without food indefinitely while camped across from the mammoth company’s headquarters. He is hoping his hunger strike will call attention to Propecia’s devastating side effects as many men who are taking the drug and doctors who are still prescribing it have no idea that a drug prescribed for hair growth can wreak such havoc within the body.
“I want Merck to see how their drug is destroying lives — and know that I’m just one of thousands of victims suffering across the globe,” said Malley, who was prescribed Propecia last year by his doctor, and took the controversial medication for five months until suffering complete erectile dysfunction and other debilitating sexual side effects.
“Even now, eight months after quitting Propecia, my sexual dysfunction has not resolved itself,” added Malley. “I also suffered severe memory loss and disorientation, which made it nearly impossible to concentrate on my work.”
As a result of his physical and psychological ailments, Malley resigned from his research position late last year.
Meanwhile, he and his fiancée broke off their engagement when she learned that his sexual dysfunction appears to be permanent.
While trying to come to grips with his condition, Malley came across Propeciahelp.com, a support group for men suffering from persistent finasteride side effects. There, he encountered many other men suffering similar fates long after quitting the drug. He can be reached on his cell phone at 702-219-5632 for those who wish to learn more about his experiences with Propecia.
Malley has reported his case to the Food and Drug Administration via its MedWatch program. And in January he called Merck’s Adverse Reporting hotline (800-444-2080), but the company, which enjoys annual Propecia sales of more than $440 million, told him, “We don’t have any answers for you right now,” he said.
Known clinically as “Post-Finasteride Syndrome” (and so called for Propecia’s generic name, finasteride), the condition is marked bysexual, neurological, hormonal and physical side effects—including impotence, Peyronie’s disease, testosterone deficiency and depression—that do not resolve themselves after quitting Propecia, and may be irreversible.
On April 11, the Food and Drug Administration ordered Merck to revise the labeling on Propecia to reflect mounting evidence that the medication can cause continued sexual dysfunction long after patients have stopped taking it. Of the 421 Propecia-related sexual dysfunction cases the FDA reviewed in its probe, 14 percent lasted longer than three months after patients discontinued the drug.
On April 20, The Examiner broke the story that the FDA is widening its probe into Propecia, stating that the agency “will continue to vigilantly evaluate and analyze all reports that are available on finasteride and take regulatory actions as warranted.”
The FDA has also been actively encouraging victims to submit reports about “all adverse reactions potentially caused by finasteride [including] cases of patients who developed Peyronie’s [disease], anxiety, panic attacks, cognitive dysfunction, chronic insomnia, muscle wasting and other persistent side effects.”
A ground-breaking study on Propecia’s side effects by George Washington University Professor Michael Irwig published last year in the Journal of Sexual Medicine was one of the first to report on Propecia’s troubling side effects. “As my study concluded, there are very real sexual health issues that are affecting a population of previously healthy men ranging in age from 21 to 46 who took Propecia.”
Unlike the vast majority of drugs, whose side effects cease when you stop taking them, Dr. Irwig explains that “finasteride is different because it can actually change the brain’s chemistry. The enzyme 5 alpha reductase is present in many areas of the brain. It is rare for a drug to have the capability to persistently change the brain’s chemistry.”
Many men now face crippling sexual side effects simply because they wanted to improve their cosmetic appearance. “Had they known the real risks, they all tell me they would have never taken the drug in the first place,” says Dr. Irwig.