Ever since finasteride was brought to market, there have been a number of adverse drug reaction reports of a possible association to depression, and in rare cases, suicidal thoughts. The medication is finasteride 1 mg. (Propecia) for male pattern hair loss. Depression has also been associated with finasteride 5 mg. (Proscar). Patients were advised to stop taking Propecia immediately if depression was evident, and to inform a healthcare professional. Proscar already lists depression as a possible adverse reaction on its product information label.
What is Finasteride?
Finasteride is a 5a-reductase-type-2 inhibitor. In the 1 mg. dose, it is indicated for the treatment of male pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia). In the 5 mg. dose, it is indicated for the treatment and control of benign prostatic hyperplasia, according to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
Depression and thoughts of suicide have been reported in men with and without a previous history of depression. A depressed mood has been previously documented with Propecia. A recent evaluation of the evidence has suggested more significant depression may occur, therefore the warning is updated to reflect this change.
Adverse reactions related to sexual function have been reported in association with finasteride. These reactions include decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, and ejaculation disorders, such as decreased volume of ejaculate.
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Lawsuits Involving Propecia
In 2015, a lawsuit was filed in California federal court on behalf of a widow whose husband committed suicide after using Propecia. It was the first suit of its kind and was filed in California’s Southern District. Merck allegedly neglected to warn that Propecia can lead to suicidal thoughts and depression.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff’s husband began using Propecia for male pattern baldness in May 2008. The man stopped taking the drug in 2012, but continued to suffer from deep depression. He struggled with insomnia and depression and in 2013 he stepped in front of an oncoming Amtrak train.
The plaintiff alleged that her husband began acting strangely in 2009, a year after he started taking Propecia. She stated that they began to fight over trivial matters and the fights would escalate rapidly. By 2011, the plaintiff described her husband as “unrecognizable.” The lawsuit alleged that he experienced a total loss of sex drive, had anxiety, depression, repetitious behavior, and had a short temper. The suit added he suffered from weight gain despite being active and healthy. Toward the end of 2011, he experienced two panic attacks.
The couple decided that Propecia may be at fault for their diminished sex life, and the last prescription was filled in February 2012. However, the plaintiff maintains, her husband did not recover.
According to the lawsuit, by May 2012 his behavior worsened. He allegedly suffered from insomnia, slept during the day and complained of muscle twitching and shaking in the legs. In 2013, he quit his job from a company he helped build. When he attempted to get his job back three days later, the company refused. The lawsuit alleged he grew more distant, confused, and directionless in the months that followed.
Propecia Warning Label
Propecia did not carry any warning about depression or suicidal side effects until 2010, when Merck noted that there is a risk of developing depression. The lawsuit referred to studies showing a link between the drug and deep depression and suicidal thoughts. The plaintiff noted that other drugs with a risk of depression and suicidal thoughts carry a warning on the label and in the drug safety information.
The label currently warns about sexual dysfuncion like “erectile dysfunction, libido disorders, ejaculation disorders, orgasm disorders, male infertility and/or poor seminal quality” that may continue after discontinuation of treatment. A study in BMJ (British Medical Journal) reports of the disturbing side effects in medical journals and popular magazines. Men’s Journal in 2015 wrote of side effects such as, inability to orgasm, painful erections, chronic depression, insomnia, brain fog, and suicidal thoughts, and can in some cases, last long after patients stop taking the pill.
The World Health Organization Program for International Drug Monitoring’s database of adverse drug reactions contained 13,546 adverse drug reactions, including 3,577 sexual function and fertility disorders, 1,526 depressed mood disorders, and 67 completed suicides, according to the Post-Finasteride Syndrome Foundation.
Legal Help for Medication Complication Issues
If you or someone you know has been injured by medication side effects or complications, you may have valuable legal rights. Parker Waichman LLP offers free, no-obligation case evaluations. We urge you to contact us at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).