Hair Loss Treatments Increase Risk Of Depression. A new study has shown that Propecia and Proscar, examples of drugs that are used in the hair loss treatment of male pattern baldness and enlarged prostate, may increase the risk of depression in older men, but not increase their risk of suicide, as formerly reported.
Merck & Company, the manufacturer of Propecia (finasteride) have had lawsuits filed against them by both American and Canadian consumers with allegations that the medication causes severe side effects that include a risk of sexual dysfunction, genital shrinkage, infertility, and potential emotional and mental issues.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Propecia as a treatment for hair loss in 1997. Its active ingredient may interfere with male hormones, including testosterone derivatives, preventing conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) to treat male pattern hair loss. This is a common condition in which men have thinning of scalp hair. Prior to that, the FDA approved finasteride in 1992, was used, and still is used, as an enlarged prostate treatment. After the approval of Propecia, the drug came with a warning of potential side effects that included decreased libido and erectile dysfunction (ED).
Lawsuits state that Merck updated the Propecia label in Europe in 2008, warning about the potential duration of sexual side effects that may be permanent. The warning label in the United States did not reflect the risk of persistent sexual dysfunction until 2012.
Enlarged Prostate Treatment with Finasteride
Finasteride is used to shrink an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH) in adult men. It may be used alone or in combination with other medications to lessen symptoms of BPH and may also reduce the need for surgery.
Finasteride may improve symptoms of BPH and provide benefits such as decreased urge to urinate, better urine flow with less straining, less of a feeling that the bladder is not totally emptied, and decreased nighttime urination. Finasteride works by decreasing the amount of a natural body hormone that causes growth of the prostate, reports WebMD.
Long-Term Propecia Side Effects
Propecia lawsuit plaintiffs, in some cases, maintain that the long-term side effects of the baldness treatment such as insomnia, sexual dysfunction, and emotional and mental symptoms persisted in some cases, for years even after they stopped taking the drug.
The study published in March 2017 in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Internal Medicine, tracked data on over 93,000 Canadian men aged 66 and older who had begun a 5-a reductase inhibitor (5ARI) medication between 2003 and 2013, according to WebMD. The 5-a reductase inhibitors are a group of drugs used in the treatment of an enlarged prostate gland and male pattern hair loss.
National law firm Parker Waichman LLP has extensive experience and success in representing clients in product liability and pharmaceutical litigation, including Propecia. Attorneys at the firm are available to answer questions for any individuals seeking legal information for a potential lawsuit
Although the study was not performed to prove cause-and-effect, some psychiatric trends were reported by WebMD. “The men had an 88 percent increased risk of self-harm in the first 18 months of starting on 5ARIs, but that risk disappeared after that point. Their risk of depression rose by 94 percent during the first 18 months and continued to be elevated after that, but to a much lesser degree, the findings showed.”
In addition, WebMD reported that the study found no heightened suicide risk for men taking baldness treatment drugs such as Propecia and Proscar.
Former Finasteride Study
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism published an earlier study called, Characteristics of Men Who Report Persistent Sexual Symptoms After Finasteride Use For Hair Loss. The article revealed that the former finasteride users in the study had impaired sexual function, higher depression scores, a more negative affectivity and more cognitive complaints than men participating in the study who had never used finasteride as well as others who used finasteride but reported no sexual side effects.
A larger, broader study on former finasteride users was called for by that study: “It is possible that the depressive symptoms and prior finasteride use are coincidental or that the depressed mood may contribute to sexual dysfunction. It is unclear why only a subset of finasteride users, experience persistent sexual symptoms and low mood.”
Choices in Therapy
There is a distinctive difference between the choice for older men, who predominate among enlarged prostate gland cases and need the drugs to improve urination, and younger, balding men who take the drugs “for cosmetics.” In both cases, there are alternative therapies available that a patient can and should discuss with his physician, according to Abdulmaged Traish, PhD, a School of Medicine professor of urology and biochemistry at Boston University, as reported in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.