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Researcher: Propecia Side Effects a "Life Sentence"

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Boston, MAThe year 2011 might be one that the makers of Propecia would rather forget. After all, studies released in 2011 suggested an increased risk of Propecia side effects, including Propecia sexual dysfunction. Furthermore, Propecia lawsuits were filed, alleging the drug's maker downplayed the risks associated with the medication.

One study, published in March 2011 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that not only is Propecia associated with an increased risk of side effects, but those side effects may be irreversible in some men, leading one researcher to call the medication "a life sentence" for some patients, (as quoted in USA Today; 03/13/11). Worse, the sexual side effects associated with Propecia, such as erectile dysfunction and loss of libido, can cause depression in men.

Propecia, and its stronger version, Proscar, works by blocking androgen which is linked to benign prostatic hyperplasia. By blocking androgen, the medication helps to reduce the size of an enlarged prostate. But androgen also helps with erectile function, so blocking it is linked to sexual side effects.

According to the study, eight percent of men who took finasteride, the generic version of Propecia and Proscar, reported erectile dysfunction, compared with four percent of men who took a placebo. Furthermore, 4.2 percent reported reduced libido, compared with 1.8 percent of men who took a placebo. What may concern some patients even more, however, is that in some patients, sexual side effects reportedly persisted even after the medication was discontinued.

A different study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine (03/18/11) found that the average duration of sexual side effects in men who experienced such side effects was 40 months from the time they stopped using the medication. In other words, men who experienced sexual side effects suffered them an additional three years after they stopped medication. Researchers concluded that doctors treating male pattern hair loss, "should discuss the potential risk of persistent sexual side effects associated with finasteride."

A lawsuit has been filed against Merck, maker of Propecia and Proscar, alleging the medications caused sexual dysfunction even after men stopped using the medications. The lawsuit alleges that Merck knew or should have known about the risk of side effects, especially since the drugs' label in Europe was changed to warn about the risk of permanent side effects.

Plaintiffs say they would not have used Propecia if they had known about the risk of side effects.

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