Propecia Sexual Side Effects
Written by Faith Anderson on July 13, 2012
Propecia and Sexual Side Effect Risk
Propecia, which can also be found as a generic called finasteride, works by blocking the conversion of testosterone into a more potent form called DHT, which is a contributing factor to hair loss. Finasteride was initially developed by pharmaceutical giant Merck in 1992 and approved by the FDA as Proscar, a treatment for enlarged prostate. When finasteride was approved under brand name Propecia as a hair loss drug in 1997, Merck noted at that time that few men reported sexual side effects during clinical trials of the medication. On its website, the drug firm said any side effects were resolved when patients stopped taking the drug.
Researchers from George Washington University interviewed 54 men under the age of 40 who reported side effects that lasted three months or more after taking Propecia to treat hair loss. None of the men involved in the study reported suffering from medical, psychiatric or sexual problems before they took the hair loss medication. Although some of the interviewed men took the drug for years and others just for a few weeks, all of them reported side effects such as decreased sexual drive, erectile dysfunction, shrinking and painful genitals, problems with orgasm, and even some neurological problems like anxiety, depression and mental fogginess. The most alarming finding in the study though, is that, for 96% of the men, these sexual side effects lasted for more than a year after they stopped taking Propecia.
Propecia May Be Linked to Permanent Sexual and Neurological Damage
“Our findings make me suspicious that this drug may have done permanent damage to these men,” said Dr. Michael Irwig, author of the study. “The chances that they will improve? I think it’s lower and lower the longer they have these side effects.” Irwig does note that it’s possible only men who were most affected by the hair loss drug participated in the study, since he recruited the study participants through an online forum called PropeciaHelp, a group for men who have suffered from persistent sexual side effects from the hair loss medication.
Despite Merck’s claim that Propecia side effects subsided when patients stopped using the medication, the drug company received over 400 reports during a 13-year period from consumers who reported sexual dysfunction side effects, and nearly 60% reported that those side effects lasted longer than three months after they stopped taking the drug. In 2011, the FDA issued a drug label change for both Propecia and Proscar, warning consumers that some patients reported erectile dysfunction that persisted after patients stopped using the medications. In April, the agency updated the drug label to include reports of ejaculation, libido and orgasm disorders.
Propecia Benefits Not Worth Potential Side Effect Risk
According to the FDA, only 36 of 945 men who took Propecia in clinical trials reported adverse sexual side effects, and Irwig reports that the number of men who will experience long-lasting Propecia side effects is relatively small – about 3%. However, as Irwig says, “because the medication is prescribed so commonly, it’s still a lot of people, likely several thousand men around the world.” Many of these men have joined class-action lawsuits against Merck over the sexual side effects of its hair loss drug, Propecia. And what’s worse, a professor of biochemistry and urology at Boston University School of Medicine, Abdulmaged Traish, says scientists are only just starting to investigate the effects of Propecia on the brain and nervous system. “We are just beginning to venture in that direction. It might be in the next five to 10 years that we may find there’s more to this story than we know now,” Traish said. In the meantime, Traish warns men struggling with a cosmetic problem like hair loss to avoid Propecia in light of the serious risk of long-lasting sexual side effects. As he says, “Why take that chance?”