August 31, 2012 — Top sexual health experts have met to discuss the persistent and potentially permanent sexual side effects of Propecia and Proscar (finasteride). According to Dr. Burnett, discussion on this topic was one of the highlights of the meeting. Dr. Burnett is president of the Sexual Medicine Society of North America, which met in Chicago at the World Meeting on Sexual Medicine.
Dr. Burnett acknowledged growing public concern and media coverage regarding Propecia and Proscar. He said that there is “a lot of controversy” regarding the persistent side effects of finasteride that do not resolve when the medication is discontinued, and also noted that the FDA had taken steps to update the drug labels in response to hundreds of adverse event reports. Dr. Burnett said that experts should be discussing treatment for these men. Although there are some new treatments for erectile dysfunction, Dr. Burnett said these are in the “early stages of development.”
Concern about the persistent side effects of finasteride have been growing for year,s and in April 2012, the FDA announced new updates to the label on Propecia and Proscar. After receiving more than 400 adverse event reports, the FDA expanded the list of potential side effects to include persistent libido disorders, ejaculation disorders, and orgasm disorders. The label was updated last year to warn about persistent erectile dysfunction.
Dr. Michael Irwig of George Washington University has also published a study regarding the persistent side effects of Propecia. His research suggests that some cases may actually be permanent. He conducted a study of men who reported at least three months of sexual dysfunction after using finasteride, and found that almost all of the men still had dysfunction more than a year after discontinuing finasteride. Furthermore, 20% reported at least six years of sexual dysfunction, suggesting permanent side effects. Although Dr. Irwig admitted a significant sampling bias (all of the men were selected from an online forum for men suffering from side effects of Propecia), the study does raise concern about the duration of “persistent” finasteride side effects.
Merck, the pharmaceutical company that sells Propecia, continues to claim that Propecia is safe, and only a small percentage of men suffer persistent sexual dysfunction after using finasteride. The company is now facing Propecia lawsuits from men who allege that Merck did not adequately warn about the risk of side effects. Many of these men say that if they had known about the risk, they never would have used Propecia. In addition to sexual dysfunction, finasteride has also been linked to psychological disorders and physical disfigurement.
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