A study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that the drugs Propecia and Proscar, which both have the chemical name finasteride, are linked to sexual dysfunction and depression even long after patients stop taking them.
The study looked at 61 men who were former users of the drug and experienced sexual side effects lasting more than three months. According to the findings, 83 percent reported depression ranging from mild to severe, 44 percent reported suicidal thoughts. In a control group of 29 men who had never used the drug, only 10 percent reported mild depressive symptoms with no cases of moderate or severe symptoms and only 3 percent reported suicidal thoughts. Dr. Michael Irwig, of George Washington University, the study’s lead author, states, “I think it’s very scary to have a young man who is otherwise healthy who takes a cosmetic medicine and in addition to not losing his hair, develops severe depression and suicidal thoughts.” The doctor added, “I’ve seen men who have dropped out of work, dropped out of school, are unable to date, and the list goes on. It’s a game changer.”
In April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) changed the labeling on Propecia, adding to the drugs warning that the sexual side effects, which include impotence, loss of interest in sex, difficulty ejaculating and poor quality sperm, could persist even after the drug was stopped.
More research is needed to determine the safety of finasteride and Dr. Irwig is hopeful that the FDA will launch its own investigation. “I am hoping that people become aware before a young man starts casually taking the medication without knowing the side effects,” he said.
Propecia counteracts male pattern baldness by affecting certain male hormones in the blood. There are other options in the treatment of balding men. Minoxidil, most commonly known as Rogaine, is applied topically and has no effect on hormone levels. It has no reported sexual side effects, however, it is not considered as effective as Propecia.
Before finasteride use, the men experienced average sexual activity of approximately 26 episodes per month, but after use, it came down to approximately 8 per month, an almost 2/3 reduction. Dr. Irwig stated, “20 percent of the patients I interviewed experienced persistent sexual dysfunction for more than five years, which makes me wonder if their persistent sexual dysfunction is permanent.”
One patient bravely stepped forward revealing that the drug left him with no sex drive and even shrank his genitals.
The male pattern baldness drug is manufactured by Merck and was approved by the FDA in 1997.
While labeling on the medication in the U.S. currently warns about possible reversible side effects, there is no reference to the effects being persistent, as explained by Dr. Irwig.
Other countries, including U.K. and Sweden do require medical companies to include the ‘persistent risk’ warning on the labeling.
Dr. Irwig’s study included results from interviews with 71 men aged 21 to 46 years old to assess how long they took finasteride, the type and duration of sexual side effects and their sexual frequency before and after the medication.
Dr. Irwig discovered that 94 percent developed low libido, 92 percent developed erectile dysfunction and decreased arousal and 69 percent developed problems with orgasm.
All of the victims are angry that they were not warned that the drugs could have such lasting effects, as well as the increase in sexual dysfunction, permanent in most cases.
Merck said that no evidence has proved a causal relationship between Propecia and long lasting sexual dysfunction.
It certainly boosts a man’s confidence to have hair on their head, but most men would agree that the trade off is not worth having the thickest head of hair. Even very young men who started taking Propecia or Proscar are left with severe sexual dysfunction including lack of sexual interest, depression and even suicidal thoughts. None of these symptoms can be worth any amount of hair. What good is having a full head of hair when you are alone, depressed and thinking about ending it all? Do you agree that the manufacturer should have clear warnings on their products so patients can make informed decisions before starting this medication?
For more information, contact a Gacovino Lake attorney at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).