Viagra Lawsuit Filed Over Melanoma Diagnosis on Scalp, Left Cheek and Chin

According to allegations raised in a product liability lawsuit recently filed against Pfizer, side effects of Viagra caused a Washington man to develop melanoma on his scalp, which spread to his left cheek and chin.

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Harold Troy in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on July 10, indicating that Pfizer failed to adequately warn about the potential risk of melanoma diagnosis from Viagra.

Troy indicates that he began using Viagra in 2004 for erectile dysfunction. In 2012, he was diagnosed with melanoma of the scalp on the left temporal area. This required surgical intervention, but several months later the cancer was found to have spread to his left cheek. This spot was also excised. In January 2013, melanoma was also found on his chin, requiring more medical intervention.

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Side Effects of Viagra Linked to Risk of Melanoma Skin Cancer

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According to the lawsuit, Troy will have to undergo regular dermatological testing to ensure that the skin cancer does not return. Experts say that a previous melanoma diagnosis increases the risk of a future melanoma diagnosis by a factor of nine.

The case joins a growing number of Viagra melanoma lawsuits being pursued in courts throughout the U.S. by men diagnosed with skin cancer. Plaintiffs claim that Pfizer withheld information about the potential skin cancer risks with Viagra due to concerns that it would negatively impact sales of the blockbuster drug, which generated about $2 billion in sales in 2012.

“Had Defendant properly disclosed the melanoma-related risks associated with Viagra, Plaintiff would have avoided the risk of developing melanoma by not using Viagra at all; severely limiting the dosage and length of its use; and/or more closely monitoring the degree to which the Viagra was adversely affecting his health,” the lawsuit filed by Troy states.

Troy accuses the company of negligence, gross negligence, breach of warranty, fraud, fraudulent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, negligent misrepresentation, strict liability and violating consumer protection laws. The claim seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.

Viagra Melanoma Risks

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 in 1998, Viagra has been prescribed to an estimated 35 million men, and is generally considered safe by most consumers. 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, which plaintiffs allege is not adequately disclosed on the warning label.

As early as 2011 a study was published in the medical journal Cancer Cell which warned that Viagra could 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.

Public attention was not brought to the skin cancer risks from Viagra until 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.

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