Since its FDA approval in 1997, Propecia (finasteride 1 mg) has been used by thousands of men to treat male pattern hair loss. In fact, Propecia was the first drug approved by the FDA for male pattern hair loss, billed at the time as the “miracle pill.” Before Propecia’s approval, finasteride had been on the market for some years in a 5 mg dose to treat men with enlarged prostates. It was observed that, during the course of their treatment for enlarged prostates, those men who also had male pattern hair loss maintained the hair they currently had—and in some cases, re-grew lost hair.
According to Merck, Propecia’s manufacturer, the presence of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) (a sex steroid and androgen hormone) in the hair follicle is the culprit in male pattern hair loss. For this reason, Propecia inhibits the conversion of testosterone to DHT—supposedly stopping further hair loss. However, DHT is important in the proper functioning of the male body. Finasteride-based drugs like Propecia that block DHT create a “domino effect” —throwing a “wrench into the gears” of the normal hormonal balance of the male body. This “wrench” leads to numerous unintended consequences for a man trying to halt his thinning hair.
Permanent Propecia Side Effects
The first and most prevalent effect of Propecia is on a man’s sexual health. Studies have shown that Propecia causes erectile dysfunction, impotence, loss of libido, decreased semen output, testicular pain, and orgasm disorders. Unfortunately for those men who used Propecia for hair loss, Merck only warned that using Propecia could cause temporary sexual side effects while taking the drug, but failed to disclose that these sexual side effects could be permanent for some men—continuing even after stopping use of the drug. In fact, the company emphatically stated the exact opposite—that all sexual side effects “went away” in all men who used the drug. However, this has not been the case for many men.
Just this year, the FDA required Merck to add to Propecia’s label “libido disorders, ejaculation disorders, and orgasm disorders that continued after discontinuation of the drug,” as well as incidents of male infertility and poor semen quality. Additionally, a new study released this month by Dr. Michael Irwig, of The George Washington University, titled “Persistent Sexual Side Effects Of Finasteride: Could They Be Permanent?,” revealed that of the 54 male participants in the study, 96% continued to experience sexual side effects when reassessed 9 to 16 months later. Despite Merck’s denials to this day that these men have suffered from lasting Propecia side effects, Merck revised the label for Propecia in European countries, beginning in 2008, to warn of permanent sexual side effects—but did not change its warnings for men in the U.S. until 2012 and only when ordered to do so by the FDA.
If the sexual side effects were not frightening enough, studies have shown Propecia can cause serious emotional and mental side effects. Those men who have used Propecia for hair loss have been shown to have an increased likelihood of serious issues of depression and anxiety—particularly problematic for men who are already prone to depression and anxiety. Moreover, Propecia has been linked to problems with cognitive processing, memory loss, and even sleeplessness.
Propecia side effects are numerous. Apart from its effects on your mind, Propecia affects the male body in the form of male breasts (gynecomastia), deformations and shrinkage of the penis, muscle atrophy, an increased risk of male breast cancer (warned of by the U.K. government), and an increased risk of a high-grade form of prostate cancer—which the FDA also required Merck to include in its warnings for the drug.
Male pattern hair loss is a naturally occurring phenomenon and not a disease. And while hair loss can be unfortunate for the men experiencing it, many men have said “I never would have taken this drug if I knew I could be permanently harmed…hair is not worth this.” These men wish they could have made an informed choice about a drug they took solely for cosmetic reasons. But since these permanent side effects were not disclosed, they were not afforded that opportunity.
Because of these undisclosed side effects, numerous men across the country have filed Propecia lawsuits against Merck for their permanent injuries caused by using the hair loss drug. These unfortunate men seek justice for being deprived of the opportunity to make an informed choice about the risks and benefits of using a prescription drug, like Propecia, for hair loss.