Category Archives: Merck

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.

Generic Finasteride Cost

Update: There are now various online sources that offer coupons with huge discounts for drugs such as generic Finasteride if you are purchasing them with cash and without any insurance. You need to print the coupon and take it to the pharmacy with your prescription.

Finasteride 1mg (Nongeneric = Propecia)

In November 2013, US-based Merck’s patent on hair loss drug Propecia (made up of Finasteride 1mg) finally expired. Thereafter, numerous generic versions of Finasteride 1mg have come into the US market at a small fraction of the cost of Propecia. I assume the same is true in other countries and blog readers are free to post their findings in the comments to this post.

Today, I called or visited a few major pharmacies in the US to get more information on the cost and country of origin of manufacture of these generic drugs, as well as to find out the name of the company that manufactures these products. If I buy a generic drug, at the very least, I want to check out information on the company that is manufacturing the product and try to make sure that the company has not been frequently cited for bad practices or worse.

Several pharmacists I talked to were uncertain about whether a company made or just packaged these products, but I tried to check my findings online and hopefully there are no errors in the below table.

Finasteride 5mg (Nongeneric = Proscar)

It should also be noted that Merck’s patent on benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH — aka prostate enlargement) drug Proscar (made up of Finasteride 5mg) expired as far back as June 2006. Thousands of people have since been purchasing generic versions of Finasteride 5mg and then cutting each pill into 4 pieces with a pill cutter (i.e., essentially taking 1.25mg of Finasteride per day to treat baldness rather than BPH). This method always works out to be a lot cheaper than purchasing generic Finasteride 1mg pills.

Most hair transplant surgeons are willing to prescribe generic Finasteride 5mg pills to combat hair loss, even though the 5mg dosage has officially only been approved to treat BPH. Therefore I also decided to add information on generic Finasteride 5mg in the below table.  I have been taking generic 5mg Finasteride pills for years to help my hair, although I take the 1 quarter (1.25 mg) pill every two days rather than daily.  FYI — The half-life of Finasteride is 6 hours.

Generic Finasteride 1mg and 5mg prices

According to a pharmacist I talked to at Walmart, there are numerous types of discount cards available these days that will get you $50 off a prescription. She said she was not allowed to tell me where to get such cards, but they are easy to find.

Also note that at Walgreens, the 30 generic Finasteride 5mg pills made by Teva Pharmaceutical (Israel) will only cost $10 rather than $84 if you enroll in the Walgreens prescription savings program for $20 per year. Other pharmacies probably also have savings programs.

Note: Prices and brands at the same pharmacy chains may vary by state. Also keep in mind that many stores will price match.

Pharmacy NameGeneric Finasteride (1mg) — 30 pillsCompany Name (Country of Manufacture)Generic Finasteride (5mg) — 30 pillsCompany Name (Country of Manufacture)
Costco$13Actavis (India)$12Aurobindo Pharma (India)
CVS$70Camber Pharmaceuticals (India)$82Camber Pharmaceuticals (India)
Rite Aid$80Aurobindo Pharma (India)$76Aurobindo Pharma (India)
Safeway$60Actavis (India)$40Accord (India)
Sam’s Club$37Camber Pharmaceuticals (India)$26Actavis (India)
Target$83Aurobindo Pharma (India)$9Camber Pharmaceuticals (India)
Walgreens$80Dr. Reddy’s (India)$84Teva Pharmaceutical (Israel)
Walmart$44Hetero Drugs (India)$9Camber Pharmaceuticals (India)

Propecia (Finasteride 1mg) and Proscar (Finasteride 5mg) Prices

Note that if you do not want to take generic Finasteride, the cheapest price for 30 pills of Propecia (made by US-based Merck) is $30 at Walgreens if you are enrolled in their prescription savings program. 30 pills of Proscar (made by Merck) will also cost $30 at Walgreen’s if you are enrolled in their prescription savings program. I wish I had known about this program before!

For most people, 30 pills of Proscar will last for 4 months after cutting each pill into 4 pieces and taking 1 daily. For me, it will last for 8 months, so I would rather purchase Proscar at this low price rather than generics.

If Walgreen’s stops offering this discounted price, the typical price of 30 pills of Propecia at most pharmacies is around $100 and the typical price of 30 pills of Proscar at most pharmacies is $150-$200. At that point, generics are a no-brainer.

The generic pills that I currently use are the 5mg ones made by Camber Pharmaceuticals. I hope to send one of the pills to a lab to test and make sure that they are identical to Proscar. A local custom pharmacy that I contacted did not offer such a service. Perhaps I need to go and approach a university’s chemistry lab?

Photo of my generic Finasteride 5mg pill:

Generic Finasteride