Finasteride, Propecia, Proscar

Finasteride is used to treat male pattern baldness and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) in men with enlarged prostate. It works by preventing the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in the body. DHT causes the development of BPH. Brand name drugs such as Propecia and Proscar contain the drug Finasteride. It was developed by Merck & Co., and drugs containing finasteride were approved by the FDA beginning in 1992.

Finasteride has recently been linked with severe sexual side effects in men. In a study published by the Journal of Sexual Medicine, 71 men (ages 21-46) taking finasteride reported sexual side effects after using the drugs.

In another study in 1999, one 24-year-old man experienced soreness of the testicles, decreased sex drive and the inability to achieve an erection, only a week after starting finasteride. Although some of these functions returned to normal after discontinuing use of the drug, his sexual function never returned to completely normal. Five years later, he was still suffering from significant loss of libido, erectile function and depression.

Finasteride has also been linked to an increased risk of high-grade prostate cancer. The FDA issued a warning about this risk in 2011, and updated Finasteride labels to include the risk. The FDA also stated that the drug should not be used to prevent prostate cancer for this reason. In one trial involving 19,000 men age 55 or older, researchers looked at one group taking finasteride, while another took a placebo. After seven years, it was found that 1.8 percent of men on finasteride had high-grade prostate cancer, while only 1.1 percent of men on the placebo had gotten the disease. While a reduction in the less serious form of prostate cancer was found, there was a higher incidence of the high-grade form of the cancer.

It has also been reported that use of this drugs may cause male breast cancer in a small amount of patients. Health Canada raised awareness of these risks after there were reports of this occurring in patients. It also warned that male breast cancer could be found in side effects such as breast enlargement, breast lumps, pain or tenderness, nipple discharge and other changes.

Less serious side effects may include:

  • Impotence, loss of interest in sex, or trouble having an orgasm
  • Abnormal ejaculation
  • Swelling in your hands or feet
  • Swelling or tenderness in your breasts
  • Dizziness, weakness
  • Feeling like you might pass out
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Skin rash
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