Hair-Growth Drug Linked to Erectile Dysfunction That Lasts for Years

Henrietta Strickland
March 11, 2017

"Our study shows [that] men who take finasteride or dutasteride can get persistent erectile dysfunction, in which they will not be able to have normal erections for months or years after stopping finasteride or dutasteride", Belknap said. The researchers observed that men under 42 years old who had over 205 days of exposure to either finasteride or dutasteride were 4.9 times more likely to develop persistent erectile dysfunction, compared to men with shorter exposure. In fact, it continued for months and even years (yes, years) in some cases.

In the PeerJ journal they noted that 1.4 percent of their subjects, men between ages of 16 and 89, who used either dutasteride, a drug meant to shrink enlarged prostates or finasteride, a drug for both the prostate and hair loss, experienced erectile dysfunction for a median period of almost four years after they stopped taking the drug.

Propecia and Proscar are brand names for finasteride.

The new findings of an association between debilitating sexual dysfunction and exposure to finasteride or dutasteride should be of particular interest to prescribers and patients considering medical management of androgenic alopecia (hair loss) or symptomatic treatment of enlarged prostate, Belknap said. These drugs block the conversion of testosterone to its more active form, 5 alpha dihydrotestosterone. Sometimes dutasteride is given in combination tamsulosin, under the name Jalyn. Dutasteride is prescribed to some men with prostate enlargement. Young men with more than 205 days of finasteride exposure had a 4.9-fold higher risk of PED compared with men who had shorter exposure.

Among the participants, 167 developed persistent erectile dysfunction. Warnings about "persistent erectile dysfunction" were not added to the label on Propecia or Proscar until 2011.

According to the study authors, none of the 34 published clinical trials mentioned the severity of PED associated with the drugs, how often it occurred among test subjects or whether it was reversible. Dosage was also secondary to exposure, "likely reflecting that finasteride exerts near-maximal inhibition of 5a-DHT synthesis at a dose of 1 mg", the dosage indicated for hair loss treatment. In clinical trials, 3.8% of men on Propecia reported at least one symptom of sexual dysfunction.

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