Amid growing revelations that its hair growth drug causes severe and potentially life-threatening side effects, Merck & Co. has pulled Propecia content from the company’s website. (www.propecia.com) Merck offered no explanation for the unusual move. “One reason for Merck’s abrupt action might have something to do with the fact that a growing number of lawsuits are being filed against the company,” says Alan Horwitz, co-founder of Ingerman & Horwitz LLP, a personal injury law firm that has an interest in Propecia proceedings. (www.ihlaw.com) The lawsuits claim that Merck knew, or should have known, about the serious side effects associated with their drug, but failed to adequately warn consumers of the associated risks. “Most of the lawsuits I am familiar with pose the question: How many men would knowingly exchange Propecia’s erectile dysfunction and other alleged sexual side effects for a fuller head of hair?” Propecia is the brand name for the drug finasteride when it is prescribed in 1mg doses to treat male pattern baldness. (When finasteride is prescribed in 5mg doses to treat enlarged prostate – also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH — it is sold under the brand name Proscar). Propecia has been linked to prolonged and possibly irreversible male sexual dysfunction, clinical depression, breast cancer and high-grade prostate cancer. Other side effects include erectile dysfunction, impotence, greatly reduced libido, testicular pain, problems with orgasms and gynecomastia – an over-development of the male breast.
Last year, the FDA issued a new warning regarding Propecia’s link to high-grade prostate cancer which is the most aggressive and deadly form of the disease. While labeling on the medication in the U.S. recently warned about reported cases of persistent erectile dysfunction, there is no reference to the other sexual side effects being persistent. Other countries have documented persistent risks and required the drug’s maker to include them in labeling. It is not known exactly what causes these side effects. There is no known cure for men who have suffered from these severe symptoms that have destroyed their sexual function. Despite the growing awareness of Propecia’s devastating side effects, the FDA has not issued any warnings or recalls regarding those sexually destructive symptoms. Many medical professionals are unaware of the risk of persistent and serious sexual dysfunction since it was not originally suggested in the literature Many doctors are still prescribing the drug to patients since they are unaware of the seriousness of the potential side effects. Millions of men who have been previously prescribed Propecia have no idea that they may be at risk. Making a correct diagnosis is further complicated since the doctors prescribing Propecia are typically dermatologists and general practitioners. Doctors treating the drug’s side effects are typically urologists and endocrinologists. With their diverse disciplines, they rarely have any cross interactions. Propecia patients are unlikely to make the connection that a drug taken for hair growth can be the cause of their sexual dysfunction. Over seven million Propecia prescriptions have been filled over the last decade.