(Article changed on July 16, 2014 at 12:49)
No one should have to choose between their hairline and their health. But increasingly, men who use finasteride, commonly known as Propecia, to treat their male pattern baldness are making that choice, often unwittingly. In the 17 years since Propecia was approved to treat hair loss from male pattern baldness, so many disturbing urogenital and other side effects have emerged, the term Post Finasteride Syndrome (PFS) has been coined and hundreds of lawsuits have been brought.
Finasteride inhibits a steroid responsible for converting testosterone into 5α-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) the hormone that tells hair follicles on the scalp to stop producing hair. Years before Propecia was approved to grow hair, finasteride was used in drugs like Proscar, Avodart and Jalyn to treat an enlarged prostate gland (benign prostatic hyperplasia). Like Viagra, which began as a blood pressure med, or the eyelash growing drug Latisse, which began as a glaucoma drug, finasteride's hair restoration abilities were a fortuitous side effect.
Since Propecia was approved for
sale in 1997, its label has warned about sexual side effects. "A small
number of men experienced certain sexual side effects, such as less desire
for sex, difficulty in achieving an erection, or a decrease in the amount of
semen," it read. "Each of these side effects occurred in less than 2%
of men and went away in men who stopped taking PROPECIA because of them."
(The label also warned about gynecomastia, the enlargement of male breast
But increasingly, users and some doctors are saying the symptoms sometimes do not "go away" when men stopped taking Propecia and that their lives can be changed permanently. They report impotence, lack of sexual desire, depression and suicidal thoughts and even a reduction in the size of penises or testicles after using the drug which do not go away after discontinuation.
According to Dr. Andrew Rynne, former head of the Irish
Family Planning Association and well known surgeon, Merck, who makes Propecia
and Proscar, knows that the disturbing symptoms do not always go away.
"They know it is not true because I and hundreds of other doctors and
thousands of patients have told them that these side effects do not always go
away when you stop taking Propecia. We continue to be ignored of course."
In some cases, says Dr. Rynne, men who have used the finasteride for even a few months "have unwittingly condemned themselves to a lifetime of Sexual Anhedonia," a [condition in which an individual cannot feel pleasure from orgasm], the most horrible and cruel of all sexual dysfunctions."
"I have spoken to several young men in my clinic in Kildare who continue to suffer from sexual anaesthesia and for whom all sexual pleasure and feelings have been obliterated for all time. I have felt their suffering and shared their devastation," he says on a Propecia help site.