Does Viagra Make You Deaf? Author of Discredited Blindness Study Takes a 2nd Swing at Pfizer's Pill

Last Updated May 18, 2010 3:11 PM EDT

The University of Alabama professor whose work linking Viagra to blindness was completely discredited has a new study: It concludes that Viagra makes you go deaf.

Professor Gerald McGwin was the author of a small study in 2006 that concluded eye damage was more common in certain types of Viagra users. However, Viagra maker Pfizer (PFE) found a series of errors in his dataset and had his work kicked out of the case, in which he had also been called as an expert witness.

If you read the legal section of Pfizer's Q1 2010 earnings release, you'll find the blindness case settled for such a small sum that Pfizer doesn't need to disclose it. The settlement is actually onerous for the plaintiffs: Its size is reduced if any plaintiff fails to meet the signing deadline.

Of course, just because McGwin (pictured) got one study wrong doesn't mean he gets everything wrong. His new article looked at 11,525 men over 40 years of age and found that in those who used Viagra et al, twice as many reported hearing loss. McGwin admits the deafness study has flaws, including under-reporting of Viagra use and red herrings such as the age and underlying health of patients.

Pfizer's lawyers will be baying for McGwin's blood if his study isn't robust: They know that once a meme gets out into the culture, it's almost impossible to kill. Despite a lack of evidence that Viagra has any long-term effect on eye health, stories like this one -- in which Tokio Hotel guitarist Tom Kaulitz claims Viagra made his vision blurry -- pop up all the time.

The "Viagra makes you blind" canard is a warning to managers: False rumors about your product should be nipped in the bud, loudly and transparently. (You don't want to end up like Procter & Gamble (PG), which for years was linked to Satanism, or President Obama, who did not move quickly enough to rebut lies told about his birth certificate.)

And finally: There's no word on how Viagra affects the keen senses of dogs like this one, who takes the blue diamonds for a heart condition.

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