Would You Rather Be Bald Or Impotent?
For more than 15 years Propecia (finasteride) has been prescribed for men for treating male pattern baldness. Now new research documented that the drug is associated with sexual side effects including erectile dysfunction (ED), decrease in libido, and decrease in orgasms. This article will discuss the new research and what you need to know if you are taking or planning to take Propecia.
Researchers from George Washington University interviewed 54 men under age 40 who reported side effects for three months or more after taking Propecia. None of the men reported having any sexual, medical or psychiatric problems before they took the drug. Some of the men took the drug for a few weeks, others took it for years, but all of them reported side effects such as erectile dysfunction, decreased sexual drive, problems with orgasms, shrinking and painful genitals, even some neurological problems, such as depression, anxiety and mental fogginess. The side effects lasted for up to a year after stopping the use of Propecia.
In normal men testosterone is converted to DHT and the DHT is responsible for male pattern hair loss. Propecia works by blocking the conversion of testosterone into DHT. Initially finasteride, the active ingredient in Propecia, was originally developed in 1992 by drug giant Merck as a treatment for men with enlarged prostate glands and sold as the drug Proscar. Propecia was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1997, and at that time Merck noted that a few men reported sexual side effects during clinical trials of the drug.
In 2011, the FDA mandated a label change for Propecia and Proscar, the drug used to treat benign enlargement of the prostate gland, warning that some patients reported erectile dysfunction that lasted after patients stopped taking it; in April, the agency updated the label to include reports of libido, ejaculation and orgasm disorders.
But researchers say many physicians who prescribe finasteride are likely not aware that the side effects of the drug may haunt patients for years.
So what should a young man with early hair loss do?
First, more research will likely be needed before doctors can know for sure that the symptoms are completely attributed to the drug. At the present time doctors have no way of knowing which patients will suffer the long-term side effects. It’s possible that an unknown genetic factor drives how individual men respond to the drug.
Erectile dysfunction is more than just testosterone. There are so many things that go into the male erectile response. You have to be very careful before you attribute it to one cause, like Propecia.
Although there are doctors who would not advise men to take this drug to treat a cosmetic problem like hair loss, many physicians continue to prescribe Propecia.
Bottom Line: I think each man needs to have a discussion with his physician about the sexual side effects of Propecia before taking the medication. After all the FDA said only 36 of 945 men who took Propecia in clinical trials reported any adverse sexual side effects. The number of men who will experience these long-lasting side effects is relatively small, likely around 3 percent of all men who take the drug. Between ED and baldness-I’d rather pass on both problems!