A new study is reporting that sexual side effects that sometimes accompany the use of Propecia could be long lasting. Propecia sexual side effects often include erectile dysfunction, low libido, trouble having an orgasm, and shrinking and painful genitals
Propecia (finasteride 1 mg) and Proscar (finasteride 5 mg) belong to a class of drugs known as 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, or 5-ARIs. Propecia is approved to treat male pattern baldness, while Proscar is used for enlarged prostate. Both drugs work by preventing the conversion of androgen testosterone to DHT, a hormone critical to male sexual performance. In April, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) ordered new warnings for the Propecia and Proscar labels detailing possible long-lasting male sexual side effects associated with the drug. As we reported previously, Merck changed the Propecia label in Europe several years ago to warn that the drug could lead to permanent erectile dysfunction. But until the FDA ordered the April label change, warnings provided to U.S. users of the drug suggested that these problems typically resolve.
This study, which appears in Journal of Sexual Medicine, surveyed 54 men under age 40 who reported experiencing side effects for three months or more after taking Propecia to treat hair loss. None of the men had sexual, medical or psychiatric complaints before taking Propecia. The vast majority of men reported that their side effects lasted more than a year after they quit using Propecia.
Most of the men surveyed were recruited through an Internet forum called Propeciahelp.com, which is targeted to men experiencing persistent side effects. The study authors did admit that this could have led to biased results, but they maintain the findings may signal potentially serious risks for men using finasteride. The lead author of the study, Dr. Michael Irwig of George Washington University told ABC News that he believes that any chance the men will improve becomes “lower and lower the longer they have these side effects.”
Irwig is the author of a study published in the same journal in 2011 which also found that men using finasteride may develop an ongoing loss of libido and orgasm, even after they go off the medication. The average duration of persistent sexual side effects was 40 months after they stopped taking finasteride. In about 20 percent of the cases, men reported suffering these side effects more than six years after stopping finasteride.
A number of men throughout the U.S. have filed lawsuits alleging Propecia caused them to suffer long-lasting sexual problems. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ordered the consolidation of federal Propecia lawsuits in the Eastern District of New York via an order dated April 16. A number of claims have also been filed in New Jersey state court. In March, the Supreme Court of New Jersey centralized all complaints filed in the state before Superior Court Judge Jessica R. Mayer in Middlesex County, but declined to designate the Propecia litigation as a mass tort