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A new study suggest that use of Propecia, Proscar or Avodart, which are all used to treat enlarged prostates, could delay the diagnosis of prostate cancer, decreasing a patient’s risk of survival.
Researchers from the University of California San Diego published the findings in JAMA Internal Medicine on May 6, warning about the unintended side effects of a class of medications known as 5 α-reductase inhibitors (5-ARIs), which could suppress antigens that prostate cancer screenings rely on for diagnosis.
The population-based cohort study involved 80,875 men with prostate cancer, using data from the Veterans Affairs Informatics and Computing Infrastructure from January 1, 2001, to December 31, 2015. Researchers conducted follow up until December 31, 2017 or the patient’s death.
The researchers noted that side effects of Proscar, Propecia and Avodart decreased serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA) concentrations by 50%. According to the findings, the median time for prostate cancer diagnosis from the first time elevated PSA levels were detected was 3.6 years for those taking the prostate drugs, compared to 1.4 years before diagnosis for those not taking the drugs.
Patients treated with the drugs and later given a prostate cancer diagnosis were more than twice as likely to have the disease go metastatic (spread to other organs) than those who did not take Proscar and Avodart, according to the findings.
“Results of this study demonstrate that prediagnostic use of 5-ARIs was associated with delayed diagnosis and worse cancer-specific outcomes in men with prostate cancer,” the researchers concluded. “These data highlight a continued need to raise awareness of 5-ARI-induced PSA suppression, establish clear guidelines for early prostate cancer detection, and motivate systems-based practices to facilitate optimal care for men who use 5-ARIs.”
Propecia Health Concerns
Propecia (finasteride) is a prescription medication marketed by Merck to help men restore natural hair loss that occurs with male pattern baldness. The drug was originally developed as an enlarged prostate treatment and marketed as Proscar in 1992. It was later approved to treat male pattern baldness, and was marketed under the name Propecia.
Both Proscar and Avodart are specifically made for the treatment of enlarged prostates. All three drugs have been linked to permanent sexual complications, such as erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, genital shrinkage and problems with cognition.
Several years ago, a number of Propecia lawsuits were filed by plaintiffs who said 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.