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The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal Propecia lawsuits has adopted a discovery and trial plan proposed by the parties, which calls for the first bellwether trial over sexual dysfunction associated with the hair loss drug to go before a jury by late 2016.
There are currently more than 1,100 product liability lawsuits pending against Merck in state and federal courts nationwide, which all allege that men suffered severe and often permanent sexual problems from Propecia side effects.
Since April 2012, the federal Propecia cases have been centralized before U.S. District Judge John Gleeson in the Eastern District of New York, as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL).
According to the latest case list (PDF) released by the court this month, there are now at least 742 complaints filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide that are now pending before Judge Gleeson to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues in the cases, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different courts and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
Judge Gleeson issued a Procedure and Practice Order (PDF) on November 14, which indicates that the parties will prepare a group of ten cases for trial, which are representative of other claims pending in the litigation. These case will then be narrowed down to four that will be eligible to go forward to on a trial date scheduled for October 10, 2016.
Known as a “bellwether” program, the process of completing case-specific discovery, arguing pretrial motions and ultimately presenting representative cases to a jury is designed to help the parties gauge the relative strengths and weaknesses of their cases. While the outcomes of any bellwether trials are not binding on other cases, the process may influence potential Propecia settlement negotiations that may avoid the need for hundreds of cases to be set for trial throughout the country.
Propecia Sexual Problems
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, the Propecia lawsuits have been filed by men 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 sexual dysfunction associated with the medication was rare, and that the problems resolve after use of the medication is 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.