The family of Randy Santmann, just 22 when he committed suicide in 2008, holds that Propecia drove their son to take his own life. Indicated for the treatment of hair loss in men, finasteride has evolved to show a particularly dark side—Propecia sexual dysfunction.
The link is serious enough that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this past April mandated Merck, the manufacturer of Propecia, to revise the product label to reflect risk for decreased libido, ejaculation and orgasm disorders that continued after discontinuation of the drug, as well as to note reports of male infertility and poor semen quality that normalized after discontinuation.
It should be noted that for some men, according to various reports, Propecia side effects lingered long after the medication was stopped. For others, Propecia impotence bordered on chronic.
For Randy Santmann, his journey with Propecia began when he began losing his hair. Barely 20, he sought Propecia for help for the problem. According to a report in Home News Tribune (5/21/12), Santmann became so distraught that he took his own life at the age of 22, six months after stopping Propecia.
"He wasn't really depressed," said Randy's father John Santmann, in comments published in the Tribune. "He was in a zombie state. He didn't want to live in this mentally crippled state."
Proscar and Propecia were approved by the FDA in separate years, but for similar indications. The former is the stronger, 5 mg formulation that first appeared on the market in 1992. Propecia finasteride, featuring a less robust formulation with 1 mg finasteride, was approved by the FDA in 1997.
The drugs were quickly embraced by men suffering from hair loss and male pattern baldness. But for some, the unsavory emergence of Propecia sexual dysfunction was a brutal and unforeseen side effect. The FDA, in requesting the label change, noted that Propecia side effects were experienced by 3.8 percent of men, compared against 2.1 percent who received a placebo in a controlled clinical trial.
Last year, a researcher at George Washington University published a study suggesting finasteride causes persistent sexual dysfunction in some men.
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But not all. Kevin Malley is a former finasteride patient who has experienced Propecia long-term side effects, and described the FDA's mandated label change as "still grossly inadequate," because it does not address the emotional trauma and genital shrinking experienced by some users of the drug.
John Santmann, Randy Santmann's father, put it more succinctly: "Don't take this drug. It's just like playing Russian roulette. It's not worth it."
Propecia class action lawsuits have been filed in both the US and Canada. As well, many Propecia lawsuits have been filed by individuals in seven states.