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Jury Awards Plaintiff $9.5 M for Permanent Damage From Erectile Dysfunction Treatment

John Henry Howard, is brave — Howard sued an Atlanta men’s clinic after its erectile dysfunction therapy caused permanent damage to Howard’s penis.

Before and during trial, Howard settled with two of the three named defendants. Boston Men’s Health Center Inc. was the defendant hit with the verdict.

The jury of six men and six women found in favor of Howard following a six-day trial, awarding $750,000 in compensatory damages. After further deliberations, the jury levied $8.5 million in punitive damages against the company and found that the defendant acted with an intent to cause harm.

Howard’s saga began in September 2006, when the 53-year-old Ellenwood, Ga., truck driver responded to a radio advertisement by Boston Medical Group, which promised “sex for life,” Orr said.

Boston Men’s Health Center Inc. is an Altamonte Springs, Fla.-based company that owns 22 clinics in 12 states and the District of Columbia. Its clinics are operated under the name Boston Medical Group.

The company was founded in 1999 by Quoc Ha, who serves as the company’s chief executive and continues to control Boston Men’s Health Center through offshore companies.

At the clinic’s Buford Highway location, Howard was placed in a waiting room filled with brochures warning about the dangers of erectile-dysfunction medications that are taken orally, such as Viagra or Cialis. The clinic’s staff told Howard that their therapy was “painless” and based on a proprietary formula.

After the initial examination, the clinic’s staff diagnosed Howard with erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation and said they would inject their medication into his penis, a process that would be “painless.” Although described by the company as a “secret formula,” the primary ingredient injected into Howard was a drug called papaverine.

While papaverine had once been the primary means of treating erectile dysfunction, it was discarded as a treatment after Viagra was introduced in 1998. The Food and Drug Administration has since warned that papaverine should not be used to treat erectile dysfunction.

Howard paid about $1,200 for a six-month supply of the clinic’s medication, which he was instructed to inject into himself in the same location three times per week over the next six months.

Two weeks later, on a Saturday, after receiving the shipment of the medications, Howard administered his first and only injection of the clinic’s product.

But the erection didn’t dissipate and soon became painful. By Monday morning, Howard still had the erection and it had become more painful, so he visited the clinic. The clinic’s staff removed blood from his penis in attempt to provide relief, but that procedure did not work. Howard was sent to Piedmont Hospital’s emergency room. Howard eventually learned that the clinic’s medicine had caused fibrosis and scar tissue to form.

As a result of the fibrosis, Howard is now unable to have a normal erection.

Each side relied on one key expert witness during trial, Orr said. Orr’s witness was J. Francois Eid, a New York-based urologist who specializes in prosthetic reconstruction. The defense called Neal Shore, a Myrtle Beach, S.C.-based urologist.

Orr, Howar’s attorney said that, during his cross-examination of Shore, he asked the urologist to identify the first line of treatment for erectile dysfunction. After Shore responded that injections were the first line of treatment, Orr presented Shore with a copy of a page from the Web site of Shore’s clinic that said oral medications like Viagra are the first line of treatment. Orr also said he had printed the page the previous night from the Web site of Shore’s clinic.

The clinic’s attorneys said that Howard waited too long — more than 36 hours — after he self-administered the first injection and first experienced pain before he sought help from the clinic’s staff. “Had medical assistance been sought sooner, it was more likely than not that the damage would have been avoided.”

The other named defendants, Boston Medical Group-Georgia Inc. and physician William Powell, settled before and during the trial. Terms of the settlements were not disclosed. Boston Medical Group-Georgia is the Georgia-based subsidiary of Boston Men’s Health Center.

The case is Howard v. Boston Men’s Health Center, No. 07A75518 (filed Oct. 4, 2007).

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