Propecia, manufactured by Merck & Co., has been used for almost 2 decades to help treat men with male pattern baldness. Originally, a similar drug called Proscar was used to treat men with enlarged prostates, but during the trials it was discovered that the drug caused men’s hair to grow. After this was discovered, Merck worked on a lower dose of the medicine specifically designed to help men with male pattern baldness, and came up with Propecia in 1997.
Unfortunately, as is common with many drugs, Propecia began to be linked to dangerous side effects. Most notably, Propecia had been linked to serious sexual side effects, including erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, and orgasm and ejaculation disorders. In 2012, the FDA had received almost 60 reports of men suffering sexual side effects after taking Propecia, and they required Merck to update Propecia’s label to include warnings about these potential side effects, and to also note that these side effects may be permanent.
Merck originally claimed that all sexual side effects would go away after the patient discontinued use of the drug. However, it was later discovered that Merck failed to disclose that almost 4% of patients taking Propecia have had sexual side effects, and that the side effects could even continue after the patient stops taking it. By April 2012, there were Propecia lawsuits pending in six different states.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuits are claiming that Merck knew or should have known that Propecia could cause sexual side effects. Many of the pending cases have been transferred by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to MDL (multidistrict litigation) 2331 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The cases, overseen by Judge John Gleeson, were transferred for coordinated pretrial proceedings.
Currently, there are over 700 lawsuits pending in MDL 2331, and more than 400 pending in New Jersey State Courts. The plaintiffs and the defendants in the MDL will both select 10 cases which will be narrowed down into 4 cases to be the bellwether trials in the MDL. The first trial in the MDL is scheduled to be no later than October 28, 2016 with the other bellwether trials to be heard after that date.