Having earned a reputation for dating multiple women at once, Charles K. was known as somewhat of a player, although he had one little problem — a receding hairline. Charles turned to Propecia, the FDA-approved medication for male- pattern baldness, to solve his issue. Instead, he found himself with a handful of more serious problems, which included a decline in sex drive.
Charles is only one of what could be thousands of victims who suffer from severe sexual side effects that may be caused by finasteride, the generic form of Propecia, the common hair-loss treatment, and Proscar, which is used to treat prostate enlargement.
According to Merck & Co., the manufacturer of Propecia and Proscar, the side effects caused by finasteride are rare and generally lessen with time. Merck also argues that if there is no improvement, patients can stop taking the drug and their bodies will revert to how it functioned pretreatment.
Yet, for Charles and other Propecia patients, this promise was never fulfilled. Instead, when Charles quit the drug, he experienced a sudden loss of libido, a loss in pleasurable sensation in his penis, and had difficulty achieving and sustaining an erection. These symptoms did not diminish with time.
Charles is a victim of a condition called “post-finasteride syndrome,” or PFS.
PFS is a condition characterized by severe and persistent sexual problems — including low sexual desire, erectile dysfunction, genital numbness, dulled orgasm, and decreased arousal — that occurs in patients who have stopped taking finasteride therapy. The symptoms usually started while taking the drug, but at other times, sexual health plummeted after stopping the medication.
In a study by George Washington University, 71 men were completely healthy — physically, sexually and psychologically — until they took Propecia. Afterwards, they reported serious sexual side effects for an average of 40 months after completing therapy. One man saw no improvement in symptoms after 11 years.
Dr. Irwig, one of the researchers in the study commented, “It’s a real irony. Men took finasteride to stop or prevent hair loss and sometimes to improve their dating lives. And it actually ended up destroying their sexuality and self- esteem.”
Many of the men took to online forums and found there were other men who were experiencing similar persisting side effects.
The men suffered from what doctors have come to describe as an “endocrine system crash,” which can cause symptoms like loss of libido, visible changes in the penis and scrotum, fatigue, hot flashes and depression. Additionally, Propecia may also affect brain chemicals, nerve-signaling pathways and male-to-female hormone levels. As a result, Propecia has also been linked to depression and male breast cancer.
Said researcher Abdulmaged Traish: “The percentage of affected men may be small, but our research definitely concludes that PFS is real. For a subset of these men, the damage persists — maybe forever — even after they go off the drug. We don’t fully understand why, but it as if something shuts off biologically and stays that way.”
While Merck has changed drug labels in Sweden, Italy and the United Kingdom to reflect symptoms of “persistent erectile dysfunction,” it was only recently — in the wake of two-class action lawsuits, new research and possible pressure from the FDA — that Merck updated its label in the US to include “reports of erectile dysfunction that continued after discontinuation of Propecia.”
For men already suffering from PFS, this concession came too late.
“If anybody had warned me that there was even a small chance of permanent side effects from this drug, there’s no way I would have taken it,” said Charles K. “I wish I could just take the time machine back.”
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