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Melanoma Lawsuits Over Cialis and Viagra Continue to Mount

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A growing number of lawsuits continue to be filed by men who state that they developed melanoma from Viagra and Cialis, alleging that the manufacturers of the erectile dysfunction drugs failed to adequately warn users or the medical community about the importance of monitoring for signs of skin cancer. 

There are currently about 500 Viagra lawsuits and Cialis lawsuits pending throughout the federal court system, brought on behalf of men nationwide who indicate that they may have avoided the severe, and often life-threatening form of skin cancer if known safety risk had been disclosed.

Given similar questions of fact and law raised in complaints filed nationwide, the litigation against the manufacturers of both drugs have been centralized over the past few years before U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in the Northern District of California, 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 judicial system.

Last week, lawyers involved in the Viagra and Cialis melanoma litigation met with Judge Seeborg for a status conference (PDF), to discuss the current state of the cases, the status of discovery proceedings and a potential bellwether discovery plan and schedule.

Over the past few months, the number of cases has continued to steadily increase, each raising nearly identical factual allegations.

In a complaint (PDF) last week, Florida resident George Houck became one of the latest to join the litigation, indicating that he was diagnosed with melanoma in April 2015, following use of Viagra from March 2011 to March 2013, and Cialis from September 2009 to November 2014.

Melanoma Side Effects of Viagra and Cialis

Viagra (sildenafil citrate) was introduced by Pfizer in 1998, and it has become one of the most widely recognized brand-name medications on the market in the United States, used by millions of men to treat impotence and sexual dysfunction, including the inability to develop or maintain an erection.

Since its approval, Viagra has been prescribed to an estimated 35 million men. However, recent studies suggest that the medication may reduce the body’s ability to resist the spread of melanoma.

The Viagra melanoma cases began to emerge after a study was published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine in April 2014, in which researchers from Harvard Medical School found that men who took Viagra were 84% more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma than men who do not use the drug.

Cialis (tadalafil) is a similar erectile dysfunction drug introduced in 2003, which also become a blockbuster treatment amid aggressive direct-to-consumer advertisements.

Plaintiffs allege that Pfizer and Eli Lilly knew or should have known about the melanoma skin cancer risk for years, indicating that studies published as early as 2011 suggested that the erectile dysfunction drug may promote melanoma cell invasion.

Another study published in the Journal of Cell Biochemistry in 2012 also found that PDE5 inhibitors like Viagra could exacerbate melanoma development.

The American Cancer Society indicates that melanoma is diagnosed in about 69,000 Americans each year and causes about 8,650 deaths annually. The skin cancer usually manifests as unusual moles or patches of skin. While it is often curable if caught early, once melanoma has spread beyond the skin and local lymph nodes, treatment is difficult and it may ultimately result in death.

The next status conference before Judge Seeborg is scheduled for June, with the start of the first trials expected by the end of this year, or early 2019. Following any bellwether cases, if the makers of Viagra and Cialis fail to reach melanoma settlements to resolve large numbers of cases, hundreds of individuals lawsuits may be remanded to U.S. District Courts nationwide for individual trial dates.

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