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MDL Panel To Consider Centralization of Propecia Suits Next Month

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A panel of federal judges is scheduled to hear oral arguments next month on whether to centralize all Propecia suits filed by men who developed erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems after using the popular hair-loss drug. 

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has scheduled a hearing for March 29 in San Diego, at which point lawyers for the drug maker and various plaintiffs involved in the Propecia litigation will present arguments on whether the cases should be consolidated before one judge for pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.

There are currently more than 50 lawsuits over Propecia pending in federal courts nationwide, all of which include allegations that Merck & Co. failed to adequately warn consumers or the medical community that side effects of Propecia could cause permanent or long-lasting sexual problems.

Many of the plaintiffs and Merck agree that the cases should be centralized as part of a Propecia MDL (multidistrict litigation), but disagree on where the cases should be transferred.

One plaintiff, Christopher Masefield, seeks to have the cases transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Merck disagrees, pointing out that 41 of the 53 lawsuits were filed in New Jersey and the drug maker argues that the cases should be consolidated there.

Centralizing the Propecia suits into an MDL is designed to increase efficiencies, serve the convenience of the parties, prevent duplicative discovery and avoid conflicting pretrial rulings.  However, the MDL panel will have to determine what is the most appropriate transfer jurisdiction.

Propecia (finasteride) is approved for the treatment of male pattern baldness. It is a low-dose version of Proscar, approved in 1992 for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia.

Men who took the hair loss formula say that Merck failed to warn consumers of the risks of long-term erectile dysfunction from Propecia, as well as loss of libido, infertility, anxiety, depression and other problems.

In the United States, Merck has suggested on the warning label that the sexual side effects of Propecia are temporary, indicating that cases observed during clinical trials resolved after users stopped taking the medication. However, in certain other countries, Merck has been forced to provide additional information about post-marketing reports involving men who have experienced persistent sexual problems.

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