Propecia Lawsuits Centralized in NJ State Court, As Federal MDL Weighed

All product liability lawsuits filed against Merck in New Jersey state court by men who suffer erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems from Propecia will be assigned to one judge for centralized case management. Similar consolidation will be considered by a federal panel of judges later this week for all complaints filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country.

All of the Propecia lawsuits allege that Merck, which is based in New Jersey, failed to adequately warn that side effects of their popular prescription medication for male pattern hair loss could cause permanent and devastating sexual dysfunction, which may persist long after the medication is discontinued.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of New Jersey centralized all complaints filed in the state before Superior Court Judge Jessica R. Mayer in Middlesex County, but declined to designate the Propecia litigation as a mass tort.

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According to an Order issued by Judge Mayer on March 16, an initial conference has been scheduled with all parties for April 16, 2012. Centralized management during pretrial proceedings is designed to avoid duplication and prevent conflicting rulings from different judges.

Similar proceedings will be considered in the federal court system on Thursday, when the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is scheduled to meet in San Diego.

In December, a motion was filed to consolidate all federal Propecia lawsuits as part of an MDL, or mutidistrict litigation, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York or the Western District of Washington.

In a response filed in January, Merck indicated that it agrees the federal litigation should be consoldated, but disagreed about what the most appropriate venue is, suggesting that the lawsuits be centralized in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, where most of the federal complaints have been filed.

Following a hearing scheduled for March 29, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation will review whether they agree that consolidation is appropriate and 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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