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Hair Loss Drugs Linked To Risks For Sexual Problems In Men

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Two hair loss and prostate medicines carry a risk for men, research shows: erectile dysfunction.

Researchers at Northwestern University found that the drugs, sold under the brand names Propecia, Proscar and Avodart, and generically known as finasteride and dutasteride, presented some problems for those taking it, NBC News reports.

While the risk is low – only 1.4% of men who took the drug suffered from sexual problems – the effects lasted a long time. The same men reported suffering from erectile dysfunction for over three-and-a-half years after they stopped their medications. Also, 4.5% of men developed short-term erectile dysfunction.

The younger the men, the higher the risk, the study says.

The drugs are effective at treating problems older men face, such as enlarged prostates, trouble urinating and discomfort, and hair loss.

Steven Belknap, a dermatologist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and one of the study authors, said,

Our study shows 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.

Propecia got renewed public attention when the New York Times quoted Dr. Harold Bornstein, Donald Trump’s physician, saying that the latter uses Propecia for hair loss.

The drugs act on the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which turns testosterone into its active form. Testosterone has been proven to have effects on the prostate, sexual function and male-pattern baldness.

The US Food and Drug Administration updated the labels on Propecia and Proscar in 2012 to reflect the long-term effects of the drugs.

But according to Belknap, the risks are not always clearly discussed with men taking the medicines. The full prescribing information says that the risks don’t increase when taking the drugs for a longer period of time, and that stopping the drugs will also stop all side effects.

Other reports say differently, with at least 1,300 lawsuits filed against the maker of finasteride, Merck. The study says, “Some reports describe men with symptoms beginning within days of initiating finasteride and persisting for years after stopping finasteride.”

The company, however, released a statement saying, “Merck stands behind the demonstrated safety and efficacy profile of Propecia, which has been prescribed to millions of men since its FDA approval in the U.S. in 1997. Merck conducted well-designed clinical trials on the product and stands behind the results, which were reported to the FDA and regulatory agencies around the world.”

The study was published in the journal PeerJ.

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