Propecia is the brand name for finasteride, a medication prescribed to treat men with enlarged prostates. It is also approved to treat hair loss and the gradual thinning of the hair on the scalp in men. (It has not been shown to treat hair loss in women or children.) Propecia works by blocking the body's production of a hormone in the scalp that stops hair growth.
Scientists have been studying the side effects of finasteride for several years. One of the most common and persistent has been low libido and erectile dysfunction, even after men stop taking the medication. The Swedish Medical Products agency conducted a study that ended in December 2008. It found that men taking the drug could suffer from permanent erectile dysfunction.
Another more recent study was published in March 2011 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine and discussed similar findings. According to the study, sexual side effects lasted 40 months on average after the user stopped taking finasteride. Approximately 20 percent of the men suffered from the same side effects more than six years after they stopped taking the medication.
GlaxoSmithKline and Merck both sell finasteride to treat several medical conditions, including hair loss. They report that a common side effect is adverse sexual events – up to 8 percent of users. Other studies have concluded that up to 38 percent of men may suffer from erectile dysfunction and impotence as a result of taking the drug.
Men with concerns about taking finasteride should talk to their doctor. Do not stop taking any prescription medication without consulting a physician first.
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