By: Jonathan A. Knoll, Attorney

Erectile dysfunction drugs, like , have been on the market since the late 1990s. Conservative estimates place the market for these drugs at over $3 billion in annual revenue. Viagra leads the market for erectile dysfunction drugs with over $1 billion in annual sales.

However, a recent study published online on April 7, 2014 in the JAMA Internal Medicine found that men taking sildenafil citrate (Viagra) for erectile dysfunction had an approximately 84% increased risk of developing melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.  The authors analyzed data from approximately 26,000 men who participated in the Health Professionals’ Follow-up Study between 2000 and 2010.  Over 5% of the participants reported having taken Viagra in the previous 3 months and over 6% reported having taken Viagra at some time. The average age of the participants was 65.

sunbathing manThe results of the study showed that men who recently took Viagra had nearly twice the risk of developing melanoma than men who did not use the product.  Men who used Viagra at any time had a similar higher risk of developing melanoma.  As one of the study’s authors, Abrar A. Qureshi, M.D., of Brown University NBC News, “Viagra may increase the risk of melanoma because it affects the same genetic pathway that allows the skin cancer to become more invasive.”  While the study did not include other drugs such as Cialis or Levitra, as one Forbes article , “because these drugs are longer-acting they may potentially result in an even greater increase in risk for melanoma.”

Dr. Qureshi told NBC News, “. . . people who are on the medication and who have a high risk for developing melanoma may consider touching base with their primary care providers.”  An accompanying commentary by June K. Robinson, M.D., of Northwestern University, encouraged doctors who treat older men who use Viagra to check for signs of skin cancer.  She also encouraged further study into Viagra’s role in the biological behavior of melanoma in older men.

When patients and doctors are not warned of dangers associated with drugs or medical devices, lives are placed at risk.  You can protect yourself by asking questions and soliciting knowledgeable medical opinion related to treatments involving drugs and medical devices. If that process fails and you suffer a serious injury due to a drug manufacturer’s negligence, the next step is to protect your rights by speaking to a product liability attorney. Contact us for a free consultation.