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On the heels of recent research that highlighted the link between side effects of Propecia and sexual problems for men, a new study indicates that the hair loss drug may also increase the risk of self-harm and depression.
In a report published last week in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, Canadian researchers found that a class of drugs known as 5α-reductase inhibitors nearly double the risk of suicide and depression during the first 18 months of use. The class of medications includes Propecia, Avodart, Jalyn and Proscar.
Researchers looked at data on more than 93,000 men ages 66 or older in Ontario, Canada, who began using the drugs between 2003 and 2013.
According to the findings, in the first 18 months of use, self-harm risks increased by 88%, and the risk of depression increased by 94%. However, the researchers noted that the self-harm risk decreased after the first 18 months, and while depression risks continued to be elevated, they were not as high as in that first year and a half of use.
The study found no evidence of an increased risk of suicide, however. The findings on suicide contradict previous research, which did link the drugs to increased suicide risks.
In July 2015, a study published in the medical journal Pharmacotherapy found a strong link between the use of Propecia and suicide risks. That study looked at nearly 5,000 adverse event reports submitted to the FDA and found a strong link between sexual dysfunction side effects associated with the drug and reports of attempted suicide.
“[W]e did not demonstrate an increased risk of suicide associated with 5α-reductase inhibitor use,” researchers in the latest study concluded. “However, the risk of self-harm and depression were increased compared with unexposed men. This is in keeping with post-marketing experience and patient concerns, and discontinuation of the medication in these circumstances may be appropriate.”
Propecia Sexual Side Effects
Propecia (finasteride) is a prescription medication marketed by Merck to help men restore natural hair loss that occurs with male pattern baldness.
While men generally take the medication to help improve their appearance and overall quality of life, the drug maker has faced a number of Propecia lawsuits filed by men who allege that they have been left with permanent sexual complications, such as erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, genital shrinkage and problems with cognition.
Propecia was originally developed by Merck as an enlarged prostate treatment and marketed as Proscar in 1992. It was later approved to treat male pattern baldness, when it was given the name Propecia.
Since April 2012, the federal Propecia cases have been centralized before U.S. District Judge John Gleeson in the Eastern District of New York, as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL), where more than 800 complaints are currently pending. Similar centralized proceedings have been established in New jersey state court, where nearly 400 additional cases are pending, as that is where the drug maker’s U.S. headquarters are based.
According to allegations raised in the complaints, Merck has failed to adequately warn consumers or the medical community about the link between Propecia and sexual dysfunction, which may continue long after the medication is no longer used.
Prior warning information provided by the drug maker suggested that sexual dysfunction associated with the medication was rare, and that the problems resolve after use of the medication is discontinued.
Even after many men reported experiencing permanent sexual issues after Propecia use, Merck continued to provide information suggesting that the problems were temporary until the Propecia warning label was updated in April 2012.