February 28, 2012 — A new article published in Men’s Health sheds light on the hair-loss drug finasteride, sold under the brand-name Propecia. It has recently been linked to a variety of severe side effects. There may be thousands of men suffering from Post-Finasteride Syndrome, characterized by persistent erectile dysfunction, reduced libido, decreased ejaculation volume, decreased or nonexistent sensation in the penis, enlargement of the male breast tissue, and more. Hundreds of men are now contacting an attorney to file a Propecia lawsuit, seeking justice and compensation for their injury.
Propecia is the brand-name of the drug finasteride, which was originally developed under the brand-name Proscar to treat enlarged prostate. Doctors noticed that men taking finasteride tended to grow more hair, and lower doses of finasteride were re-branded as Propecia and sold as a treatment for male pattern baldness. Though each daily dose cost around $2 and most insurance carriers did not cover Propecia, Merck & Co made nearly $450 million in sales of Propecia during 2010 alone.
When the FDA approved Propecia, it was well-known that finasteride could cause sexual health problems. In 2003, a study published in Urology compared the rate of sexual problems in men taking finasteride compared to a placebo. The result was that twice as many men taking finasteride suffered some type of sexual dysfunction — 15% of the men in the study, to be exact.
The mechanism by which finasteride impacts a man’s sexual health relates to its effect on the testosterone system. Finasteride prevents hair loss by inhibiting an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase, which is used in the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone or DHT. A man taking finasteride can expect to see a 70% reduction in his levels of DHT. Around 50% of men have a genetic predisposition to lose their hair when the hair follicles come in contact with DHT, so when this substance is reduced, the effect is less hair loss. Unfortunately, there is growing evidence that finasteride can also have persistent effects on a man’s brain chemistry. This may help explain why many men complain of persistent sexual health problems.
Since health authorities have received an increasing number of reports of adverse health events, Merck has continually updated the safety labeling on Propecia and Proscar. After one study found that finasteride significantly increased a man’s risk of male breast cancer, the FDA required Merck to update the label to include this risk information. The labels also now include information about the risk of depression.
One controversy over updates to the safety labeling stems from the risk of persistent erectile dysfunction. In 2008, a Swedish study emerged that linked finasteride to this side effect. Health authorities in Sweden, Italy, and the United Kingdom soon required Merck to update the safety labeling to include this risk information. However, Merck waited until April 2011 to make the same changes in the United States.
Many men who took Propecia during this lapse and suffered persistent erectile dysfunction or other sexual health problems are angry at Merck for not warning them of the side effects, and not including risk information about several other severe sexual health problems that could potentially harm a man taking this medication. Merck is now facing two class action Propecia lawsuits, and the number of men who decide to file a Propecia lawsuit is likely to grow. Although there is no way to put a price tag on a man’s sexual health, there is value in seeking justice and compensation for injuries that could have been prevented.
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