August 7, 2012 — The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry has published a study from Dr. Irwig, assistant professor at George Washington University, highlighting the link between finasteride (the active ingredient in Propecia and Proscar) to depression, which may be very severe.
Dr. Irwig recruited 61 men, most of whom came from an online forum for men who are suffering Propecia side effects. All of the men also reported sexual dysfunction that persisted for at least three months. Dr. Irwig wanted to investigate the rate of depression and suicidal behavior on men with persistent sexual dysfunction. He also recruited 29 men who had male-pattern baldness but did not take Propecia.
One major limit to the study is sample bias, because Dr. Irwig selected the study participants from a pool of men who were already so injured by Propecia that they sought help on an online forum. Therefore, it is likely that the results cannot be extrapolated to represent other men who used Propecia. The study does, however, highlight the very serious nature of depression.
All of the men in the study had no history of psychiatric conditions, were otherwise healthy, and did not take any other medications.
Dr. Irwig found that the Propecia users were much more likely to have depressive symptoms than the control group. Of the Propecia users, 11% had mild symptoms, 28% had moderate symptoms, and 36% had severe symptoms. Nearly half of the Propecia users reported suicidal thoughts. In the control group, 10% of men reported mild depressive symptoms, 3% reported suicidal thoughts, and there were no cases of moderate or severe depressive symptoms.
Dr. Irwig noted, “The potential life-threatening side effects associated with finasteride should prompt clinicians to have serious discussions with their patients. The preliminary findings from this study warrant further research.”
The warning information on Propecia has included the risk of depression since 2010, but does not carry a warning about suicidal behavior. The study emphasizes the fact that depression is a very serious side effect, and the risks of depression should be carefully considered because Propecia is primarily used for cosmetic purposes.
Earlier this year, the family of Kevin Malley staged a protest outside Merck headquarters calling on the company to recall Propecia. Malley was 22 years old when he committed suicide, apparently because Propecia had made him impotent.
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