(May 6, 2012) – The hair growth drug finasteride, commonly marketed as Propecia, has been prescribed over the last several years to treat male pattern hair loss (MPHL). Unfortunately, Propecia can cause persistent sexual dysfunction long after use of the medication has ended, according to a study released March 18th. Propecia may also cause clinical depression, breast cancer, and high-grade prostatic cancer.
Propecia was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1997 to promote hair growth in men suffering from male pattern baldness. As devastating as this can be, millions of men who have been prescribed the drug Propecia have no idea that they may be at risk. Even worse, many doctors continue to prescribe Propecia, unaware of the drug’s shocking side effects. There currently has not been any Propecia recall.
Doctors have long known that finasteride can cause impotence and related sexual problems. Finasteride decreases the conversion of testosterone to the more potent dihydrotestosterone, the latter of which is related to hair loss. Any medication that interferes with testosterone has the risk of affecting sexual performance, as well.
GlaxoSmith Kline and Merck, who both sell finasteride for several medical conditions, reported that up to 8 percent of users have adverse sexual events. A review study published in 2008 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine extends the range to 38 percent, depending on the dose and duration.
While labeling on the medication in the U.S. recently warned about reported cases of persistent erectile dysfunction, there is no reference to the other sexual side effects being persistent. Other countries, including the U.K. and Sweden, documented persistent risks and required the drug’s manufacturer to include them in labeling, several years ago. It is not known exactly what causes these side effects. What is known is that unlike the majority of drugs whose side effects cease when you stop taking them, finasteride can actually change the brain’s chemistry, which is rare for a drug to be able to do. The enzyme 5 alpha-reductase is present in many areas of the brain.
Many men have undergone costly and time-consuming medical tests and treatments that will not detect or treat the source of the problem. They are merely told that there is no problem. In fact, some patients have been told to see psychiatrists and psychologists because the problems were in their head. In a strange twist of irony, the men seeking to build confidence one hair at at time, are left in a much worse situation, with a full head of hair but left impotent.
There is no known cure for men who have suffered from these severe symptoms that have destroyed their sexual function. Diagnosing these maladies is further complicated by the fact that the doctors who are prescribing Propecia are typically dermatologists and general practitioners. The doctors who are treating the symptoms of Propecia’s side effects are usually urologists and endocrinologists. Because of their diverse disciplines, they rarely have any cross interactions.
The average duration of persistent sexual side effects, such as erectile dysfunction, low libido, and problems with orgasm, was 40 months after they stopped taking finasteride. About 20 percent of the men still had side effects more than six years after stopping finasteride.
The first class-action suits are now being filed. While individual lawsuits have been filed on behalf of plaintiffs over the last several years, Dr. Irwig’s study, and another recent review study on Propecia’s side effects in the Journal of Sexual Medicine by researchers at Boston University, have now moved the discussion form an anecdotal one to one that has the credence of two of the country’s most well-known medical schools. A few weeks ago, class-action suits were filed in California and Florida, joining those already filed in other states. It is expected that additional lawsuits will be filed shortly in other jurisdictions.
I don’t know about you, but I think it would be better to have a normal, healthy sex-life with little or no hair than to have a full head of hair and no one to enjoy it with! Is this justice?