A New Yorker named Todd P (another instance of locker room embarrassment) filed suit against Merck & Co. this May after he used Propecia (finasteride) to cure his male pattern baldness and developed erectile dysfunction (ED). There’s a marketing slogan if ever I’ve heard one: Propecia – You too can be hairy but impotent.
Mr. P took Propecial from 2010 to 2013 to treat his male pattern baldness. Though many men find themselves losing their hair, Big Pharma came up with a way to play to the societally programmed image that to be an important man, one must have a full head of hair. Sadly, Mr. P bought into the marketing. Now, thanks to a failure to warn issue on Merck’s part, Mr. P is an impotent man with a full head of hair.
According to the suit, “the rates of sexual dysfunction as a result of finasteride are reported to be as high as 39% in published clinical studies.” It gets worse. Only about 50% of men in that 39% ED group ever recovers from ED and the other associated sexual dysfunctions Merck’s magic hair bullet brings.
Todd is, understandably, an unhappy man. He’s asking for damages to cover his physical and mental injuries, including Propecia-related medical costs, lost wages, permanent disability, loss of balance and pain and suffering. He’s also asking for punitive damages. It should be noted that the loss of balance is not related to sexual dysfunction. Hopefully.
The FDA approved Propecia in 1992 as a treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia, a non-cancerous inflammation of the prostate gland. Then, in 1997, the FDA approved Propecia for treating male pattern baldness. Don’t laugh. Unintended “positive” effects of drugs are often discovered after they’ve been used for a while. Viagra was originally intended as a treatment for high blood pressure and angina. Imagine discovering its other “benefits” by accident!
However, as with most magic bullets, there’s usually a price and I’m not talking about co-pays. As time went on, men were reporting unwanted side effects, such as ED, decreased libido, ejaculation disorder and depression. I’m certainly not surprised to hear about the depression.
Sweden took the issues somewhat seriously and changed the label in 2008 to include warnings of these side effects. The U.S. didn’t get around to changing it until 2011 even though the label was updated several times with other information. The new label clearly states that Propecia could cause “erectile dysfunction that continued after discontinuation of treatment.”
Obviously, that’s little comfort to Todd P. My advice to would be Todds:
Rent “The King & I” and follow Yul Brynner’s lead.