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Viagra Skin Cancer Risks May Outweigh Erectile Disfunction Benefits

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Recent revelations that there may be a link between Viagra and melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, raise serious questions about whether the benefits provided by the erectile dysfunction drug justify the potential risk.

Viagra (sildenafil citrate) was introduced by Pfizer in 1998, and it has become a blockbuster medication and one of the most widely known prescription medications in the country.

The impotence drug has been aggressively promoted as a safe treatment for erectile dysfunction, which causes a number of men to experience sexual problems, including the inability to develop or maintain an erection.

However, researchers from Harvard Medical School published the findings of a new study earlier this year, which found that men who took Viagra were 84% more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer than men who do not use the drug.

Researchers hypothesize that Viagra lowers levels of a cancer-fighting protein called PDE5A. This, in turn, results in melanoma skin cancer cells becoming more invasive.

Risk vs. Benefits

The FDA deems that every drug on the market must be able to show that its benefits outweigh its risks. If the link between melanoma and Viagra is confirmed, the risk-benefit analysis of Viagra could theoretically shift far enough that the FDA and others begin to call for a Viagra recall.

Part of the reason for that possibility is that Viagra doesn’t cure anything. While it allows some men to achieve erections when this was previously not possible due to erectile dysfunction, it does not treat the underlying causes, which can be anything from stress and anxiety to the natural process of aging.

Furthermore, erectile dysfunction does not pose any physical risk to a man. It does not shorten his life span or cause other health problems, impact mobility or health in any other way besides being frustrating. In most cases where the FDA allows drugs that can lead to severe health consequences to stay on the market, it’s because they combat even more severe health consequences.

However, that is not the case with Viagra. If the researchers’ findings are confirmed, Pfizer and the FDA would have to justify putting men at risk of death from melanoma skin cancer for the benefit of providing a temporary treatment for erectile dysfunction.

Viagra Lawsuits Likely

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.

In 2012, Viagra raked in $2 billion in sales for Pfizer, and the findings of this study have raised questions about how the drug maker failed to detect and warn users about the potential risk of melanoma from Viagra.

It appears likely that Pfizer will face Viagra melanoma lawsuits filed by men who allege that if information and warnings had been provided to consumers and the medical community, they may have avoided a diagnosis of melanoma by choosing not to use the erectile dysfunction drug or that they may have been able to catch the cancer earlier if warnings had been provided about the importance of monitoring for signs or symptoms of melamona.

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