Hair Loss Lawsuits Galore

Every now and again, I read about class action lawsuits against major hair loss product manufacturers. It seems like 2021 will be a record year for such legal actions.

Merck, Propecia and Lawsuits

The most famous of these entails various class action lawsuits against Merck (US) (the manufacturer of Propecia). The initial accusations against Merck pertained to Propecia causing persistent long-term sexual side effects in men. Despite the company settling the lawsuit with most litigants in 2018, further class actions continue to stack up to this day.

The latest allegations state that Propecia causes depression and suicide in males. This story was covered by many major news sources in February, 2021. However, these issues were already in the news for several years. I have not tried to find out if suicide rates in men taking Propecia are higher than in those not taking the drug. I also wonder if some of these suicides occur due to the fact that Propecia is not stopping hair loss in some desolate men? Or causing serious sexual side effects in some, in turn leading to depression? I would also guess that depression in balding men and women is higher than in those without any hair loss.

“Annual US prescriptions of finasteride for hair loss increased to over 2.4 million in 2020, more than double the number in 2015”. Source: IQVIA.

At the same time, these drugs do alter hormones. In particular, Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is drastically reduced in men taking Propecia or generic finasteride. Moreover, finasteride affects both estrogen and testosterone levels. Albeit by a small amount in most users. Hopefully topical finasteride may lead to fewer side effects.

Out of respect to families affected by these tragedies, I will delete any comments in this post that seem insulting or demeaning. Voicing some support or skepticism about this issue is fine.

I wonder if such lawsuits against Merck were what prevented GSK (UK) from obtaining US FDA approval to sell Avodart (dutasteride) as a hair loss drug? Almost everyone agrees that dutasteride causes more side effects than finasteride. As of 2021, dutasteride is only approved in Japan and South Korea to treat male pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia). In the rest of the developed world, it is approved to treated enlarged prostates in older men.

Gorilla Glue Lady

My favorite story from 2021 is probably the Gorilla Glue lady Tessica Brown. It is also the biggest story in the hair loss world so far this year. Luckily, it had a happy ending. Many sources reported that Ms. Brown would be suing Gorilla Glue, but this is not true as of the time of writing this post. She received a lot of backlash on social media when people thought that she was going to take legal action against Gorilla Glue.

Unilever and Tresemmé

TRESemmé (owned by UK-based Unilever) is a very famous brand of shampoos. I have used it many times in the past, and always liked the product. However, in January 2021, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Tresemmé. Apparently, some Keratin lines of this shampoo contain formaldehyde-releasing preservative DMDM hydantoin. It is alleged that this ingredient caused hair loss, scalp irritation and burning in many women using the shampoo. Unilever faced similar allegations against its Suave range of products in 2012, forcing it to recall the offending items.

Sanofi-Aventis and Selsun Blue

In 2021, Sanofi-Aventis (France) is facing legal action from several parties in relation to its Selsun Blue dandruff shampoo. The plaintiff alleges that the product contains chemicals that cause scalp irritation and hair loss. In 2020, Sanofi-Aventis faced another lawsuit claiming that the company’s Selsun Blue line of natural dandruff shampoo is, in fact, not natural.

While I have reservations about most such lawsuits, I do find it undesirable that most hair loss shampoos contain so many harmful ingredients. Even something as popular and effective as Nizoral shampoo contains ingredients that often dry out the scalp. A recent NY Times article on declining sperm counts blames endocrine disruptors (including ingredients in plastic bottles and shampoos) as contributing factors. Hormone disrupting phthalates should be avoided in hair and beauty products. Parabens and sulfates are also undesirable.

DevaCurl Lawsuit

In 2020, curly hair line DevaCurl was in the news almost every month due to a class-action lawsuit that was heavily promoted on social media. Perhaps the biggest reason was this video from Ayesha Malik:

Monat Lawsuit Resolution

Also in 2020, Monat finally seemed to have resolved continued lawsuits that first commenced in 2015. Consumers have complained that Monat products cause hair loss, itching, sores and skin lesions. Monat is a multilevel-marketing company, renowned for its natural hair and skincare products. The company is now banned from making false or misleading claims about the health benefits, safety or performance of its hair and beauty products.

RIKEN Fundraising for Regenerative Medicine

RIKEN is a Japanese government funded research institute. They get very little in the way of public donations. This should change in FY 2020 due to their widely publicized request that I discuss in this post.

  • In FY 2018, RIKEN received 37 donations for a total of approximately 8 million yen. Equivalent to $76,000 at current exchange rates.
  • In FY 2019, RIKEN received 380 donations for a total of 25 million yen. Equivalent to $240,000 at current exchange rates.

I have never written a fundraising related post on this blog before. I have encouraged readers to donate small amounts in order to send people to major hair loss conferences twice. However, those fundraising goals amounted to just several thousand USD.

Several days ago, we learnt that Dr. Takashi Tsuji and his hair loss cure project was still progressing. Although he split from commercial partner Organ Technologies in 2020, his RIKEN (Rikagaku Kenkyūjo) team’s research continues to thrive. Next stop is clinical hair regeneration.

However, the hair loss and teeth regeneration work from RIKEN now needs private funding.

“The team is seeking 500 million yen ($4.8 million) in donations from companies and individuals. The money will be used not only for clinical testing on the safety of the hair transplant technology, but also for other trials, such as regenerating teeth.”

Support RIKEN

I wrote to the RIKEN team and suggested their using GoFundMe or contacting Allergan for investment. The latter has invested in 5 hair loss companies in recent years. In 2019, Allergan gave $25 million to Exicure, along with potential milestone payments of $265 million. RIKEN only needs $4.8 million.

Surprisingly, RIKEN replied to me right away. They were interested in my introducing them to the Allergan team, so I will need to figure that one out! More importantly, they said that they have created the below two links for those who want to donate:

Update: I have asked them to add a Paypal option. Hope they do so, as I prefer that option over paying by credit card. Someone on Twitter has also asked them to be more transparent by posting total funds raised to date information.

I later also asked RIKEN about approaching locally based Aderans. Their response was as follows:

“Aderans is a partner of hair diagnostic project but not hair follicle regeneration. I would like to meet a new partner of the hair regeneration for clinical application in human.”

Caveat

If you do donate to this cause, please note that the chances of any particular hair loss cure coming to realization are always abysmal. We have been disappointed over and over again for decades. I also doubt that private donations will get them more than $1 million, although I hope I am wrong.

I would suggest that the only reason to donate would be to support the overall goals of RIKEN when it comes to regenerative medicine. The implications of this work go across all of human biology. Not just hair and teeth.

Japan’s declining and aging population means that the country leads the world in anti-aging research. So these funds could indirectly benefit all of humanity. Clinical trials in Japan also proceed faster than anywhere else in the developed world. Especially when it comes to autologous regenerative medicine.

Of related interest, 10 of the 50 oldest living people in the world as of today are Japanese. That list is based on proven birth records. At the same time, Japan’s population has declined for 9 straight years, and a likely 10 straight years when new data is released.

RIKEN Tweets
RIKEN Tweets from February 11, 2021. Their hair multiplication works in human cells too.