Latest clinical reports question whether finasteride is safe to use
A recent clinical trial has investigated past investigations into the safety of the drug finasteride, which is popularly used by men to combat hair loss. There have been 34 previous studies, all of which suggested that finasteride could have adverse effects on male sexual functioning even long after the prescribed drug was no longer being taken. This new study, which took place in the US, agrees with earlier findings but suggest that the results from previous studies are not adequate and flawed – there is a danger the drug could be less safe than at first thought.
Why finasteride helps prevent hair loss
Finasteride, also marketed under the names Propecia and Proscar, was initially approved in 1992 and was initially developed as a treatment for men with an enlarged prostate. Its positive effect on hair loss is because it hampers testosterone levels reaching the scalp. It is the testosterone, when it is turned into DHT, that shrinks the hair follicles – this results in shorter and more beautiful hair, and eventually, hair growth stops altogether. The 34 clinical studies highlighted the fact that the side effects which may be experienced are a decreased sex drive, impotence, and a problem with ejaculation.
Previous clinical trials did not go far enough in highlighting dangers
However, the recent study by Northwestern scientists, which has now been printed in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) commented, “Not one of the 34 published clinical trial reports provided adequate information about the severity, frequency or reversibility of sexual adverse effect”. The report stated that the trials left significant questions unanswered such as:
- What is the risk of developing sexual side effects
- How long will the results last?
- How severe will they be?
- Will sexual dysfunction return to normal once the drug is stopped?
The argument for further tests
An accompanying editorial in JAMA asked for improved study into the potential harm of the drug – especially due to the fact that in the original trials the patients were only tested for a period of a year or less. “The international standard for the duration of clinical testing for non–life-threatening diseases requires that only 300 patients be observed for one year or more, and not necessarily with a comparison group” , wrote Thomas Moore of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices in Alexandria, Virginia. This standard is not adequate and should be reassessed.”
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