Propecia Lawsuits Moving Forward “Smoothly” in MDL

As the pretrial proceedings continue in lawsuits that claim side effects of Propecia cause long-term sexual problems, the federal judge presiding over the litigation has cancelled a case management conference scheduled for next week after the parties submitted a joint letter that indicates the cases are progressing “smoothly”. ¬†

In April 2012, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation centralized the federal Propecia litigation before U.S. District Judge John Gleeson in New York, as part of an MDL or Multidistrict Litigation.

According to the latest case list (PDF) released by the U.S. JPML last month, there are currently 739 lawsuits pending in the Propecia MDL, which have been undergoing preliminary discovery into common issues that apply to all cases.

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In a letter (PDF) to Magistrate Judge Viktor V. Pohorelsky on October 1, attorneys for both the plaintiffs and the defense jointly requested not to meet as scheduled on October 16, indicating that they are working well together and do not need the judge overseeing the litigation to intervene on any disputes.

The joint letter indicates that several depositions will occur in the near future, and the parties are in the process of negotiating the preliminary custodial production list. With discovery going well and negotiations on the document production list ongoing, they state that there is nothing to report this month

In an Order issued October 3, Judge Pohorelsky granted the request and rescheduled the meeting for Wednesday, November 20.

Propecia Sexual Dysfunction

Propecia (finasteride) is a prescription medication marketed by Merck to help men restore natural hair loss that occurs with male pattern baldness.

While men generally take the medication to help improve their appearance and overall quality of life, a mounting number of Propecia lawsuits have been brought in state and federal courts nationwide by former users who allege that they have been left with permanent sexual problems, such as erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, genital shrinkage and problems with cognition.

Propecia was originally developed by Merck as an enlarged prostate treatment and marketed as Proscar in 1992. It was later approved to treat male pattern baldness, when it was given the name Propecia.

Although the medication does not treat any disease or combat any health risk, Propecia became a top seller for Merck, amid aggressive marketing that encouraged men with male-pattern baldness to seek the prescription from their doctors.

According to allegations raised in the complaints, Merck has failed to adequately warn consumers or the medical community about the link between Propecia and sexual dysfunction, which may continue long after the medication is no longer used. Prior warning information provided by the drug maker suggested that any users who experienced problems had the sexual issues resolve after the medication was discontinued.

Even after many men reported experiencing permanent sexual issues after Propecia use, Merck continued to provide information suggesting that the problems were temporary until the Propecia warning label was updated in April 2012.

In the federal litigation, it is expected that a small group of cases will be selected for early trial dates, known as “bellwether” cases because they are used to gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout a number of lawsuits. The outcomes for these case may help facilitate a possible Propecia settlement agreement without the need for hundreds of trials nationwide.

In addition to the cases pending in the federal MDL, more than 350 state court cases are centralized in New Jersey Superior Court for Middlesex County, where Judge Jessica R. Mayer is presiding over pretrial proceedings in an MCL or Multi-County Litigation.

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