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Propecia Side Effects Include Reduced Desire for Alcohol

New research indicates that Propecia, the controversial anti-baldness drug made by Merck & Co., reduces the desire for alcohol. The findings corroborate concerns from the medical community about Propecia’s impact on the brain, and were published amid a flurry of allegations of permanent sexual dysfunction and other complications caused by the drug. The research was published in the June 13 issue of medical journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental.

The study was conducted by Dr. Michael S. Irwig from the Center for Andrology and Division of Endocrinology at George Washington University. It looked at 83 men who developed sexual side effects after taking Propecia, and found that 65% of those who drank at least one alcoholic beverage per week prior to taking the drug lost the urge to drink alcohol after beginning treatment.

Irwig concluded that the full extent of potential Propecia side effects may not be known, and that further research is needed into the drug’s effect on the central nervous system. A previous study led by Irwig showed that 94% of men experiencing sexual dysfunction developed a lowered libido, and 69% had difficulty reaching orgasm. On average, sexual dysfunction persisted for 40 months after treatment was discontinued. In some cases, Propecia sexual dysfunction carried on for more than five years.

In his conclusion, Irwig stated: “In most men who developed persistent sexual side effects, despite the discontinuation of finasteride, the sexual dysfunction continued for many months or years… Prescribers of finasteride and men contemplating its use should be made aware of the potential adverse medication effects.”

Merck used “aggressive” marketing campaign

Propecia – Merck’s brand name for finasteride – has been marketed at males as a treatment for pattern hair loss, the most common type of baldness. Finasteride works by inhibiting the enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is a principal driver of the male sex drive. An increasing number of men have come forward alleging the drug causes Propecia side effects like erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, abnormal ejaculation, testicular pain and depression.

The company is accused of employing an aggressive, direct-to-consumer promotional campaign which misled the public. In 1998, shortly after Propecia won approval from the FDA, Merck purportedly spent $60 million on advertising and sales grew year on year, generating $447 million for the company in 2010 alone.

In April 2012, the FDA announced that Merck had agreed to update the drug’s labeling to reflect the risk of sexual dysfunction, which in some cases has proved permanent.

The updated label read: “Reproductive System: Sexual dysfunction that continued after discontinuation of treatment, including erectile dysfunction, libido disorders, ejaculation disorders, and orgasm disorders; male infertility and/or poor seminal quality (normalization or improvement of seminal quality has been reported after discontinuation of finasteride).”

Propecia sexual dysfunction may be permanent

According to a study conducted in 2003, only 50-59% of men who suffered  adverse sexual side effects after taking Propecia “experienced resolution of the adverse events even after discontinuing use of finasteride.” In 2006, another study concluded that Propecia should be “prescribed cautiously.” More legal action is expected to be brought against Merck, as men come forward with complaints of serious Propecia side effects.