Yesterday, we published a story about Guevedoces, children who grow up as girls but who are genetically boys without anyone knowing. Essentially, an enzyme deficiency causes them to not have outer organs until they receive a surge of testosterone at puberty. Then, male features such as a cracking/deepening voice, broadened shoulders and sexual organs begin to sprout.
It’s for the most part a rarity but in remote parts of the Dominican Republic, one in 90 children experience this. That number is high enough that the people of the Dominican Republic accept three sexual categories; male, female and pseudohermaphrodites.
A representative from the Post-Finasteride Syndrome Foundation wrote in on Monday, Sept. 21 to make some comments on the article in regards to our mention of finasteride. We had learned that an American pharmaceutical company called Merck had found some key research surrounding Guevedoces and had turned it into a drug called finasteride which is used to treat male pattern baldness and enlarged prostates. Guevedoces have a deficiency in an enzyme called 5-α-reductase and even when puberty hits, their organs are small, their prostates are small. Researchers decided to apply 5-α-reductase blockers to medicine in efforts to decrease prostate growth in grown men. Researchers found that as a positive side effect, the drug also helped men’s receding hairlines.
The PFS Foundation representative pointed out in earnest that finasteride, more commonly known as Propecia or Proscar, has many potential dangers. “There are thousands of men around the globe, many of them in their 20s, and some as young as 14, who took finasteride and now suffer from what’s known as Post-Finasteride Syndrome (PFS), which is characterized by a host of side effects that may be permanent.” Possible side effects of the drug include: Loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, panic attacks, Peyronie’s disease, penile shrinkage, gynecomastia, muscle atrophy, cognitive impairment, pain in the testicles, hives, insomnia, severely dry skin and tinnitus.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, a long-term study for prostate prevention showed that while finasteride did significantly reduce the risk of prostate cancer in their patients (about one third), it was also “associated with an increased risk of high-grade disease.”
Men’s Health Magazine published an article about Propecia in 2011. The risk seems small, according to the drug’s label. Per Merck, only one in 50 men are reported to experience significant sexual side effects, and even when they do, the side-effects are claimed to decrease with time. However, “researchers have known for some time that finasteride induces ‘sexual adverse events’ in a statistically significant minority of men who take it,” writes Men’s Health. The magazine notes a study published in Urology that showed that 15 percent of the men who took finasteride in their study also suffered new sexual side effects. In comparison, only 7 percent of men in the placebo group experienced new sexual side effects.
These kinds of side effects can be detrimental. “Many PFS patients suffer economic hardship due to job loss, and emotional distress due to the breakup of marriages and romantic relationships. PFS has also been linked to suicides,” writes PFS Foundation representative Philip Roberts.
Men’s Journal reports that since 2011, 1,245 lawsuits have been filed against Merck which allege the company of not warning finasteride users that there is a host of possible sexual and cognitive side effects attached to usage of the drug. What’s worse about all this is that patients are also experiencing side effects long after they have quit using the drug. There is even a wrongful death suit filed against the company. A 40-year-old man with no previous mental health history is suspected by his family to have killed himself because of the effects of the drug.
According to the National Institutes for Health, because of these red flags, “Studies are underway to understand the safety profile of 5-alpha reductase inhibitor drugs with respect to adverse events…and their permanency.” A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association noted the need: “Two meta-analyses conclude that finasteride treatment of androgenic alopecia (AGA) is safe but do not assess quality of safety reporting.” According to PFS, “out of the 34 clinical trials conducted on finasteride, none adequately reported on sexual side effects.”