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Propecia Side Effects

Propecia, also available generically as finasteride, was first introduced to U.S. consumers in 1997. By 1998, more than 400,000 men around the country had been given prescriptions for the hair loss medication. In addition to fuller heads of hair, patients also began experiencing other effects from the drug – adverse side effects that included Propecia erectile dysfunction, ejaculation disorders, impotence, and even increased risks of high-grade prostate cancer. In some cases, Propecia side effects were persistent and even permanent.

Side effects of Propecia

Propecia has been linked to a range of side effects, from mild to serious.

Side effects of Propecia may include the following:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Impotence
  • Swelling in the hands and feet
  • Male breast enlargement
  • Swelling or tenderness in the breasts
  • Dizziness and/or weakness
  • Headache
  • Skin rash
  • Insomnia
  • Hypotension
  • Nausea
  • Peripheral edema
  • Prostate cancer
  • Depression

Propecia sexual side effects

Propecia bottleSome of the most serious Propecia side effects reported by patients are sexual in nature, affecting men’s libido and sexual health. The sexual side effects of Propecia are particularly concerning due to the fact that many men who take Propecia are in their 20s-50s – their peak sexual and childbearing years. Even more alarming, many men report that Propecia side effects are persistent – continuing long after they discontinue use of the medication – or even permanent.

Propecia sexual side effects include:

  • Impotence: May manifest as the inability to achieve or maintain an erection, or the inability to ejaculate, or both.
  • Erectile Dysfunction: Erectile dysfunction may either be the ability to achieve erection, or the inability to maintain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse.
  • Infertility: Due to impotence, loss of desire for sex, or abnormal ejaculate, men can have difficulty conceiving children.
  • Testicular Pain: Pain in the testicles.
  • Abnormal Ejaculate Volume: Also known as hypospermia, this is the abnormally low volume of ejaculate. May affect virility (ability to have children).
  • Ejaculation Disorder: There are several types of ejaculation disorders, including premature ejaculation, delayed ejaculation, and the inability to ejaculate.
  • Sexual Dysfunction: Sexual dysfunction may extend to a combination of impotence, erectile dysfunction, and other sexual disorders that affect a man’s ability to have sexual relations and procreate.
  • Gynecomastia: This is the technical term for male breast enlargement.

Erectile dysfunction

When Propecia first came on the U.S. market in 1997, manufacturer Merck stated that, “a small number of men had sexual side effects, with each occurring in less than 2% of men.” Furthermore, Merck added that these sexual side effects, including erectile dysfunction, decreased to just “0.3% of men or less by the fifth year of treatment.” In other words, Merck stated that sexual side effects, including erectile dysfunction, affected less than 2% of all men taking Propecia, and that after five years on the baldness drug, just 0.3% of patients were still experiencing these side effects.

Post-marketing reports and consumer complaints to the FDA painted a very different picture. Men reported that Propecia erectile dysfunction, impotence, ejaculatory disorder, and other sexual dysfunction didn’t disappear over time, and sometimes persisted even after they stopped taking the medication.

Medical studies on Propecia side effects

As men around the world reported persistent and permanent Propecia side effects, the medical community took notice.

  • In 2006, the Swedish Medical Products Agency began investigating reports of persistent sexual dysfunction; by 2008, the risk of persistent sexual side effects had been added to the drug’s Swedish warning label.
  • In 2008, The Journal of Sexual Medicine published a study showing that Propecia sexual side effects could depend largely on the dosage and duration of use, and could affect as many as 38 percent of patients.
  • In March 2011, The Journal of Sexual Medicine published a study into Propecia side effects. Research indicated that 5-23 percent of men experience persistent or prolonged sexual side effects, especially erectile dysfunction and reduced libido.
  • In June 2011, The Journal of Sexual Medicine followed up with a second study. The study interviewed 71 men taking finasteride (Propecia), who reported sexual problems but were otherwise in good health. That research revealed that 94 percent had reported low libido; 92 percent had developed erectile dysfunction; 92 percent reported decreased arousal; and 69 percent had problems reaching orgasm. The study also concluded that participants experienced these side effects for a mean 40 months after discontinuing use of finasteride.
  • In June 2011, Merck admitted to U.S. patients that there had been reports of “erectile dysfunction that continued after discontinuation of treatment.”

FDA warnings of persistent sexual side effects & prostate cancer

Not only did medical researchers take note of patient reports, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration did, too. On April 11, 2012, the FDA ordered changes to the drug’s warning label, to include an expanded list of persistent, adverse sexual side effects, including infertility and poor semen quality. Additionally, in June 2011, the FDA issued a safety alert stating that 5-ARI drugs, including Propecia, had been linked to an increased risk of high-grade prostate cancer.

Finasteride is also prescribed in 5mg per day doses (5 times the dosage in Propecia) as Proscar to treat enlarged prostates. The FDA indicates, however, that no explicit causal link has been established between Propecia and prostate cancer. The agency warns, however, that the effects of the drug may work to obfuscate early detection of prostate cancer in some men.

Prognosis for men suffering from Propecia side effects

Unfortunately, there is no established cure for sexual side effects associated with Propecia. For some, symptoms will fade over time, often within a few years of discontinuing use of the drug. For others, side effects may be permanent.

For many, Propecia lawsuits against Merck can help injured men cover the costs associated with the adverse effects of finasteride: increased medical bills, sex therapy, the emotional toll of infertility, adoption, and other consequences.