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Viagra Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Over Melanoma Side Effects

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The widow of a Minnesota man has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Pfizer, alleging that inadequate warnings were provided about potential melanoma side effects with Viagra, a commonly used erectile dysfunction drug. 

The complaint (PDF) was filed by by Juliene Wood in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota on April 17, indicating that her husband, John W. Wood, Jr., died of metastatic melanoma in April 2012, after using Viagra or several years.

Wood began taking Viagra for erectile dysfunction in 1998, also using the drug Cialis after several years. In January 2009, Wood was diagnosed with malignant melanoma, which had already advanced to at least stage IV, at which point it is considered lethal and has moved beyond the skin to other organs.

According to allegations raised in the lawsuit, Pfizer knew or should have known about the link between melanoma and Viagra, yet withheld warnings about the potential risk and the importance of monitoring for signs of the skin cancer.

“As a result of Defendant’s advertising and marketing, and representations about its product, men in the United States pervasively seek out prescriptions for Viagra,” the lawsuit states. “If John Wood, Jr. had known the risks and dangers associated with taking Viagra, John Wood, Jr. would have elected not to take Viagra and, consequently, would not have experienced its serious side effects.”

The lawsuit notes that despite studies highlighting the potential melanoma side effects with Viagra, Cialis and other similar drugs, Pfizer has still taken no effort to warn the medical community or consumers.

The case comes amid a growing number of Viagra melanoma lawsuits filed against Pfizer since the publication of a study in April 2014, which suggested that men using the medication face an increased risk of being diagnosed with the serious and potentially deadly form of skin cancer.

Viagra Skin Cancer Risks

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

Pfizer reported that Viagra generated $1.8 billion in revenue worldwide in 2013, and the drug has been prescribed to an estimated 35 million men since its 1998 approval. However, recent studies suggest that the medication may reduced the body’s ability to resist the spread of melanoma, a serious and potentially fatal form of skin cancer.

In a study published last year in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, 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.

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 Wood lawsuit accuses Pfizer of negligence, strict liability, breach of warranty, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, and loss of consortium. It calls for compensatory damages and restitution aid disgorgement of profits.

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