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Viagra Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Over Fatal Case of Melanoma

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The family of a man who died from melanoma has filed a product liability lawsuit against Pfizer, alleging that he developed the fatal case of skin cancer due to side effects of Viagra

The complaint (PDF) was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on June 6, over the wrongful death of Gary E. Udell, alleging that Pfizer failed to adequately warn consumers and the medical community that their popular erectile dysfunction drug may exacerbate melanoma, an aggressive and potentially life threatening form of cancer that develops on the skin.

Udell began taking Viagra in November 2000, and the family indicates that he continued to use the drug until December 2013. In June 2004, Udell was diagnosed with malignant melanoma on his back, and underwent a year of Adjuvant Interferon therapy. However, in October 2011, a mass was detected in his chest and it was determined to be metastatic melanoma a few months later.

Following a battle over the next few years, Udell died on February 11, 2014, due to respiratory failure as a result of postobstructive pneumonia and sepsis. The Viagra wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family alleges that this was a side effect of the metastatic melanoma.

“As a direct, proximate and legal result of Pfizer’s negligence and wrongful conduct, and the unreasonably dangerous and defective characteristics of the drug Viagra, Gary E. Udell suffered severe and permanent physical and emotional injuries, including an untimely and wrongful death,” the lawsuit states. “His physical injuries included melanoma as well as repeated invasive tests and chemotherapy necessitated by his advanced metastatic melanoma diagnosis.”

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, and is widely marketed direct-to-consumers, encouraging men to ask their doctors for a prescription if they have trouble obtaining or maintaining an erection. However, independent studies released in recent years have found a link between Viagra and melanoma, suggesting that the erectile dysfunction drug may reduce the body’s ability to resist the spread of the skin cancer.

The case filed by Udell’s family joins a growing number of similar Viagra melanoma lawsuits filed in courts throughout the U.S., each involving similar allegations that Pfizer knew or should have known about the risk, yet placed their desire for profits before consumers safety by withholding information from consumers and the medical community.

Plaintiffs allege that if Viagra skin cancer warnings had been provided, they may have avoided serious and sometimes fatal cases of melanoma by more carefully monitoring for changes on the skin, or by electing not to use the prescription treatment for erectile dysfunction.

Given the similar questions of fact and law raised in lawsuits over Viagra filed throughout the federal court system, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established consolidated pretrial proceedings for the litigation earlier this year, centralizing all cases before U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in the Northern District of California. The move is designed to reduce the risk of 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.

Udell’s case will be included in the Viagra MDL, where it is expected that a small group of “bellwether” cases will be scheduled for early trial dates to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be offered throughout the claims.

While the outcomes of these early test trials will not be binding on plaintiffs whose cases are not selected to go before the first juries, they may help the parties negotiate Viagra melanoma settlements and avoid the need for hundreds of cases to go before juries throughout the U.S.

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