Man Wanted Hair, but Got the Side Effects, Lawsuit Says

Man Wanted Hair, but Got the Side Effects, Lawsuit Says [the Ledger, Lakeland, Fla.]

From Ledger (Lakeland, FL) (May 16, 2011)

May 15--BARTOW -- Eddie Sebastia was aiming to improve his appearance, not interfere with his sex life, when he took Propecia or Proscar from 1998 to 2007.

The drugs, which contain finasteride, were prescribed for male pattern hair loss, the Polk County man said in a lawsuit filed in circuit court. Instead, he contends, it led to erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, testicular pain and related emotional issues, including depression and anxiety.

Male pattern hair loss is a common condition in which men have gradual thinning of the hair on the scalp, leading to a receding hairline or balding on the top of the head, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Sebastia and his wife, Lisa, are suing Merck & Co. Inc., a global pharmaceutical company, and Merck, Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary that distributes both drugs.

Similar lawsuits have been filed by other men nationwide, with some law firms advertising their interest in class-action lawsuits. Some online websites warn of possible long-lasting or permanent side effects.

A Merck spokesman, however, responding to other lawsuits about Propecia, is quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer as saying Merck is prepared to "vigorously defend" against them.

Propecia is marketed for male pattern hair loss. It's a lower dose of finasteride than Proscar, which Merck markets for treating prostate gland enlargement.

Sebastia said his doctor told him, when he took Proscar, to divide the Proscar tablet containing 5 mg of finasteride into separate daily doses. The other drug, Propecia, has 1 mg of finasteride.

Propecia blocks the body's production of a male hormone in the scalp that stops hair growth.

Merck failed to adequately warn Sebastia or his prescribing physician that he could develop permanent and lasting sexual dysfunction, the lawsuit charges. It claims the company left that warning out of its consumer marketing and its information to doctors.

Merck's www.propecia.com website now gives this warning on the first screen visible on the site:

"In clinical studies for Propecia, a small number of men experienced certain sexual side effects, such as less desire for sex, difficulty in achieving an erection, or a decrease in the amount of semen. Each of these side effects occurred in less than 2 percent of men and went away in men who stopped taking Propecia because of them."

It also said Propecia was developed to treat mild to moderate male pattern hair loss on the top of the head and on middle front of head, emphasizing that it's for men only.

Sebastia's lawsuit said the warning was under the tab "Possible Side Effects," which also has a version of that warning.

"The statements by Merck regarding Propecia are deceptive and misleading in that they fail to advise potential uses of Propecia that numerous users of the product have reported suffering persistent and permanent side effects even after discontinuing use," the lawsuit said.

Sebastia said he sustained permanent injury and impairment and continues getting ongoing treatment. His wife is a party in the suit due to alleged loss of consortium.

He and his wife are represented by Jeffrey Bell of Bell & Melamed in Fort Lauderdale.

[ Robin Williams Adams can be reached at robin.adams@theledger.com or 863-802-7558. Read her blog at robinsrx.blogs.theledger.com. ]

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Copyright (c) 2011, The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla.

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Posted: May 2011


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