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Two Studies Point to Persistent Propecia Sexual Side Effects

Sep 28, 2012 | Parker Waichman LLP

Two recent studies on the side effects of the hair-loss drug Propecia (finasteride) should be cause for alarm for many men.

The Brisbane Times in Australia is reporting on two recent studies from George Washington University which show that the sexual side effects suffered by as many as 4 percent of Propecia users may be permanent, despite the belief that any such effects the drug may have will cease once a person stops taking the drug.

In studies published in back-to-back months this summer, Dr. Michael Irwig at GWU highlighted many of the side effects suffered by men taking Propecia to either prevent or curb hair loss or to re-grow hair. In the first, published this July, Irwig identified 71 otherwise healthy men who had experienced sexual side effects while taking the popular hair-loss drug, manufactured by Merck & Co.

Among that group of men, nearly all of them experienced decreased libido (94 percent), erectile dysfunction (92 percent), and decreased arousal (92 percent). About 70 percent of the men in the study developed problems with orgasms. In all, the men participating in the study continued to suffer from these side effects even after they stopped taking Propecia.

This goes against the warnings included with Propecia in the U.S., where safety labels indicate that the relatively small risk of sexual side effects would be irrelevant when a person stopped taking the drug and they’d regain full sexual function. For many men, they learned this wasn’t always the case and Irwig believes many more men could be suffering from these side effects but due to the nature of the side effects, are more than hesitant to admit them.

In most other countries, Merck is required to state that some sexual side effects suffered by men using Propecia could be permanent.

In his most recent piece of research on the effects of Propecia, Irwig published the results of follow-up research in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in which he notes the dangers of suicidal thoughts and behaviors shared by men who had taken the hair-loss drug.

That study showed that 44 percent of 61 “young” Propecia users developed suicidal thoughts when they had experienced sexual side effects while taking the drug.

Some of the most common side effects suffered by Propecia users are erectile dysfunction, a decreased libido, infertility or sperm with low motility, breast tenderness, ejaculatory problems, testicular pain, and allergic reactions.

Millions of men worldwide are taking Propecia or its generic form in response to hair loss and some have begun taking legal action against its manufacturer for failing to warn of these life-altering and sometimes life-threatening side effects.

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