Dr. Santmann recently protested outside of Merck & Co.’s New Jersey headquarters, where he explained to a crowd of supporters that his son, who recently committed suicide, “wasn’t really depressed. He was in a zombie state. He didn’t want to live in this mentally crippled state.” Dr. Santmann attributes his late son’s ailments and condition to his use of hair-growth drug Propecia.
One of the most concerning features of Propecia’s active drug, finasteride, is its permeability. As Dr. Michael Irwig, Assistant Professor at George Washington University School of Medicine, explains, “finasteride is different because it can actually change the brain’s chemistry. The enzyme 5 alpha reductase is present in many areas of the brain. It is rare for a drug to have the capability to persistently change the brain’s chemistry. “
The FDA has previously taken note of finasteride’s impact and forced Merck to make label changes to account for possible side effects. However, advocates for patient safety consider those changes to be “grossly inadequate.” An FDA representative stated in response to the continued uproar over the drug that the “FDA wants to know about all adverse reactions potentially caused by finasteride . . . . This includes cases of patients who developed Peyronie’s [disease], anxiety, panic attacks, cognitive dysfunction, chronic insomnia, muscle wasting and other persistent effects.”
At present there is no known cure for men who suffered from Propecia’s side effects.