Men planning to take the drug finasteridethe active ingredient in both Propecia, the medication to combat hair loss and Proscar, the medication to shrink enlarged prostatesmay want to carefully consider the risk of sexual side effects. Those drugs have been associated with a decreased libido, problems with orgasm, and other issues that can continue for some time after men stop taking them, according to the drugs' labels that were recently updated by the Food and Drug Administration.
The possibility of erectile dysfunction that continues after the drug is stopped was added to the label of both medications last year.
The FDA's recent decision is based on a number of individual cases reported directly to the FDA and to the drug company, Merck, which manufacturers both drugs. Although the sexual side effects have not been clearly linked to Propecia or Proscar, they were added to the labels, says the FDA, because the reports indicate the drugs could cause a broader range of side effects that men should be aware of if they consider taking one of these medications.
The new label for Propecia notes that men have reported decreased libido and problems with ejaculation and orgasm that continued for at least three months after they stopped the drug. The Proscar label states that men who stopped taking the drug reported decreased libido that continued for at least several weeks.
Labels for both drugs also note that there have been reports of male infertility while taking the drug, but this improved or returned to normal once the medication was discontinued.
Bottom line: If you already take or are considering taking Propecia or Proscar (finasteride) for hair loss or to help with symptoms of an enlarged prostate, talk to your doctor about the risks of side effects and the potential benefits of the medication.
Learn more about the pros and cons of baldness remedies, based on our survey of more than 8,000 Consumer Reports subscribers.
For more about enlarged prostate symptoms, finasteride and other medications used to treat this condition, check out our free Best Buy Drugs report.
Questions and Answers: Finasteride Label Changes [FDA]