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Viagra Melanoma Risk Withheld by Pfizer, Lawsuit Alleges

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Pfizer faces another product liability lawsuit over Viagra, with a Tennessee man and his wife alleging that the erectile dysfunction drug caused him to develop a potentially fatal case of melanoma skin cancer. 

The complaint (PDF) was filed by Robert and Teresa Eubanks on June 1, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee.

Eubanks indicates that he was diagnosed with melanoma on his back after using Viagra for more than a decade. According to allegations in the lawsuit, Pfizer knew or should have known about the potential risk of melanoma from Viagra side effects for years, yet failed to adequately warn consumers or the medical community.

Eubanks began taking Viagra in 2000 for erectile dysfunction. He continued to take the drug until 2013, when he switched to Cialis. In 2012, he was diagnosed with melanoma on his back, but the cancer then spread to his thyroid and lymph node under his left arm. He had to undergo surgery to remove the cancerous cells.

The case joins a growing number of Viagra melanoma lawsuits filed against Pfizer in recent weeks, which all raise similar claims.

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.

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.

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.

However, public attention was not brought to the risks 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.

Eubanks presents claims against Pfizer for negligence, strict liability, breach of warranty, negligent misrepresentation, and fraudulent concealment. His wife charges the company with loss of consortium.

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