Propecia (finasteride) is a drug that treats hair-loss by slashing levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by 70%. The manufacturer, Merck & Co., insists Propecia is safe and says only 1-2% of men experience temporary sexual side effects.
Unfortunately, a growing number of studies and about 1,245 lawsuits suggest that Propecia may be more dangerous than Merck admits. The first cases will likely go to court in 2016.
Earlier this year, the National Institute of Health (NIH) added Post-Finasteride Syndrome (PFS) to its rare-diseases database. PFS involves a variety of complications that persist after Propecia is discontinued — sexual dysfunction, inability to orgasm, brain fog, insomnia, suicidal thoughts, and more.
The actual rate of side effects could be under-estimated for several reasons — men on Propecia might not link cognitive side effects to a hair-loss drug, or they could be too embarrassed to tell a doctor (especially a woman) about sexual dysfunction.
Men’s Journal talked to Dr. Steven Belknap, who reviewed 34 clinical trials involving Propecia and published a study in JAMA Dermatology. He concluded that no studies had adequate safety reporting and half were funded by Merck or had conflicts of interest. He warned:
“As Belknap puts it, the drug works by mimicking the sex-steroid profile of pseudohermaphrodites. Some former male users equate this to “chemical castration.” To this day, health officials warn women not to even touch finasteride pills, because doing so could cause genital malformations in an unborn boy.”
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