Evidence from a new study suggests that sexual side effects caused by Propecia (finasteride) persist long after discontinuation of the drug.
This evidence has sparked a number of lawsuits to be filed throughout the United States alleging that the manufacturers of Propecia failed to warn consumers of the risk of permanent sexual dysfunction such as erectile dysfunction and impotence.
Some men in a recent study experienced persistent sexual side effects — including continuing impotence, a diminished sex drive, depression, reduced ejaculation, and a smaller semen volume — for 5 to 10 years after they stopped taking finasteride, a drug commonly prescribed to treat male-pattern baldness, researchers say.
Other men were suicidal or had lost their jobs from the psychological and physiological fallout caused by the sexual side effects after taking Propecia.
Endocrinologist Dr. Michael Irwig of George Washington University told ABC News that the study will finally give proof that persisting sexual side effects exist after stopping Propecia. He says there is strong evidence suggesting finasteride interferes with hormones in the brain, which alter levels of neurotransmitters that affect mood and thinking.
For the study, Irwig interviewed 100 otherwise healthy men between the ages of 21 and 46 who had taken finasteride for hair loss and reported sexual side effects after stopping the drug. Excluding potential subjects who had a previous medical history of sexual dysfunction, psychiatric issues or used a prescription medicine before taking finasteride, Irwig submitted findings on 71 finasteride users. The study’s full results will be published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Irwig found most of the study’s participants through a popular men’s forum called “Propecia Help”, where more than 1,700 men have gone to discuss their problems following finasteride use.
Dr. Andrew Rynne of Ireland also posted online, stating hundreds of doctors have observed that side effects “do not always go away when you stop taking Propecia.” He says some of his patients suffer from sexual anaesthesia, which is when “all sexual pleasure and feelings have been obliterated for all time.”
All across the United States and Canada, Propecia lawyers are filing lawsuits against Merck and Co., the manufacturer of Propecia and Proscar, the 5-milligram finasteride tablet prescribed to treat enlarged prostates. Meanwhile, Merck claims less than 2 percent of men experience sexual side effects after taking Propecia and these side effects should resolve over time.
Michael Miller of Vancouver filed a class-action lawsuit against Merck Frosst Canada in January on behalf of himself and others who suffered sexual dysfunction after using Propecia or Proscar. Miller claims that although he stopped taking Proscar for thinning hair, his sexual functioning never recovered.
“I have seen specialists and have tried treatments, but nothing has worked,” he said.
Many lawyers believe that neither patients nor physicians received adequate warning about the possible sexual side effects associated with finasteride for hair loss.
While drug labels have been changed in Sweden, Italy and the UK to reflect risks of “persistent erectile dysfunction after discontinuation of this drug,” no such addition has been made on American or Canadian products. However, Canadian and U.S. labels have been revised to add depression as a Propecia side effect.
While the sexual side effects are generally rare in men, ranging from between 5 percent to 23 percent, one article from the March issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that side effects never went away for half of these patients.
Researcher Abdulmaged M. Traish said he gets a number of e-mails every week from individuals who say that is their life story.
“We have to worry about the consequences for people who are going to suffer — even after they discontinue the drug — from continuous loss of libido and potential depression,” he said.
Propecia and Proscar belong to a group of drugs known as 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, which block the enzyme that turns testosterone into dihydrotestosterone, the hormone that kills hair follicles, but is important for healthy sexual functioning.
GlaxoSmithKline’s Avodart (dutasteride) is also a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor that is FDA-approved to shrink enlarged prostates.
Over 50 percent of American men will experience hair loss, equating to approximately 50 million men.
Michael E. Schmidt is recognized as one of America’s most passionate, accomplished and skilled trial lawyers. His law firm, Schmidt & Clark, LLP is currently accepting Propecia lawsuits in all 50 states. To learn more about this topic, please visit his website: http://www.schmidtandclark.com/propecia