Man sues drug company, Walmart after medical emergency

By Tara Morgan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A local man is suing Walmart and a drug company for millions of dollars. He claims his anti-depressant caused an embarrassing medical emergency.

The lawsuit filed in Richmond Circuit Court claims both the drug maker and Walmart did not warn the man the drug could cause permanent injury to his penis. He now wants $17.5 million in damages.

"He has suffered a permanent injury," said Robert Leonard's attorney, Paul Merullo of Virginia Beach.

Merullo says his client can no longer get an erection. The problem started after Leonard took the anti-depressant Trazodone, according to the lawsuit.

"He took the Trazodone on one particular incident near the end of 2008 and awoke with an erection that would not subside," said Merullo.

Leonard's attorney says two days later, his client was in the emergency room and prepped for surgery to relieve what's described as a painful condition called priapism, an erection that lasts longer than four hours. A side effect of the drug made by Teva Pharmaceuticals.

"The incidents of priapism is just as high or higher with trazodone as it is with male sexual enhancement drugs," said Merullo.

The lawsuit claims Leonard wasn't warned by the pharmacist at the Christiansburg Walmart who filled his prescription.

"The basis of the lawsuit is the makers of these drugs do not instruct doctors who prescribe them that priapism is a very serious risk and patients need to be warned," said Merullo.

Pharmacist expert, John Buckner, says two to three percent of patients who take Trazodone experience erectile dysfunction. He says Trazodone falls under a small class of drugs that require a medication guide to be handed out with the pills.

"If that medication guide is given out like it's supposed to be that's an opportunity for the patient to read that guide and call the pharmacist or physician back if they have any questions," said Buckner.

This case likely won't go to trial for another six to 18 months. Teva Pharmaceuticals declined to comment on pending litigation.

Walmart released a statement: "Our pharmacists are committed to serving customers and providing them with helpful information about prescriptions."

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