Baldness-treating drugs caused sexual dysfunction, suit against Merck claims

Andrea Dearden Feb. 10, 2012, 3:57am


ST. LOUIS - More than 50 people have joined a lawsuit accusing the manufacturers of drugs used to treat male pattern baldness of failing to warn patients about dangerous side effects.

St. Louis resident Adam Keune and more than 50 other people from 22 other states filed the consolidated complaint Jan. 27 in St. Louis Circuit Court against Merck & Co. Inc. and Merck Harpe & The Dohme Corporation.

Attorneys Trent B. Miracle and Andrew S. Williams of the Simmons firm in Alton and Timothy J. Becker and Michael K. Johnson, of Minneapolis, are representing Keune and the complainants.

Each of the complainants say they or their husbands were prescribed and took medication used to treat male pattern baldness. The medications allegedly contained finasteride, an ingredient that causes an "increased risk of persistent and/or serious and dangerous side effects," the complaint reads. The complaint lists those side effects as cognitive impairment, depression and various forms of sexual dysfunction like erectile dysfunction, reduced libido, reduced sensation and infertility. The side effects allegedly continue even after a patient stops taking the medication.

Kuene and the dozens of other patients say Merck Co. and Merck Sharpe & The Dohme Corportation manufactured the medications and sold them under the names Propecia, Proscar or generic finasteride. According to the complaint, finasteride reacts with testosterone and chemically converts to another chemical that is designed to shrink hair follicles and prevent hair loss.

"The rates of sexual dysfunction as a result of finasteride are reported to be as high as 39% in published clinical studies," the complaint reads. It goes on to say that only half of those patients report an end to the side effects after stopping the medication. Keune and the others allege more than a million take the drug and are unaware of the side effects.

Merck allegedly lists warnings about erectile dysfunction on its labels for Propecia and Proscar distributed in other countries but has not added the same language to labels in the U.S. Keune and the other complainants say the company has knowingly and actively hidden or denied the truth about the side effects. They say the manufacturers are negligent for creating a dangerous drug and for marketing it to patients without being forthcoming about its possible risks.

Kuene and the complainants accuse the drug manufacturers of fraudulent concealment, strict liability, negligence, breach of express warranty, negligent infliction of emotional distress, loss of consortium. The wives who are part of the lawsuit say they, too, were damaged by the companies' actions and the drug's effect on their husbands.

The more than 50 complainants are asking to be awarded more than $100,000 in actual, compensatory and punitive damages along with court costs and interests.

The plaintiffs demand a jury trial.

St. Louis Circuit Court Case No. 2012-12222-CC00463

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