A variety of methods are available for dealing with persistent hair loss from wigs to the ARTAS® Robotic Hair Restoration procedure, and some people try prescription medications such as Propecia, also known as finasteride in its generic form.
However, Reuters news service recently reported that a history of suicide has been documented with the use of that drug. Worse, it’s creator, Merck, and the FDA sealed the records until Reuters filed a motion in federal court to access them, and the request was granted.
Is There a Link Between Propecia and Suicide?
While conclusive cause and effect has not yet been established between taking Propecia or finasteride and people committing suicide, unsealed documents have proved that Merck, the manufacturer, kept information about the issue hidden. Merck also worked with the FDA to omit the information from the label in the United States. In Europe and Canada, the prescription label does include the warning.
According to the unsealed documents, before 2011 Merck had reports of suicide attempts among men who took Propecia. The pharmaceutical company chose not to add a warning to the label even though the FDA had reports of 34 suicides or substantial suicidal thoughts. Since then, more than 700 cases were reported to the FDA.
Additionally, in 2009 Merck already had more than 200 reports of depression and suicidal thoughts occurring after people began taking Propecia. Internal risk documents also cited the findings, but Merck again decided to omit the information from the warning label.
FDA safety evaluator Namita Kothary noted that the nine suicides reported at the time were difficult to definitively tie to finasteride usage due to incomplete information. In that same November 2010 report Kothary wrote, “However, we cannot exclude that finasteride may have contributed to the events.”
Defenders of omitting the suicide information from the label point to the fact that hair loss can cause poor self-esteem and depression. While that is true, such emotional responses to hair loss do not usually turn to suicide. Similarly, people who are already dealing with depression and/or suicidal thoughts for any reason should be aware that finasteride could make those conditions worse.
The European Medicines Agency required a warning about suicidal ideations in 2017 even though they also found it difficult to assess a link between finasteride and depression. The EMA’s reasoning is that finasteride is used for a condition that isn’t serious so if it could lead to death, the public needs to know.
Does Propecia Cause Mental Problems?
Does Finasteride Make You Depressed?
Yes, Merck’s warning label does indicate an increased risk for depression for those who take Propecia/finasteride. That depression risk is separate from any depression possibly caused by hair loss, and it can make such existing depression worse.
The National Institute of Health (NHI) cites both depression and sexual dysfunction as possible side effects of finasteride. Some researchers even use the terms “post-propecia syndrome” or “propecia depression.” For the former, the sexual side effects include erectile dysfunction, ejaculation issues, testicular atrophy, orgasm disorders, and low libido.
Is Propecia the Same As Finasteride?
From a pharmaceutical standpoint, they are the same. Propecia is the brand name for the medication. Finasteride is the generic name for it when it is made and sold by companies other than Merck, creator of Propecia. Regulating agencies like the FDA require that the brand name and generic version of a medication are the same in strength, quality, method of administration, and conditions for which they are prescribed.
Can Finasteride Kill you?
When someone asks if a drug can kill them, people often visualize an immediate fatal reaction as if it was a fast-acting poison. Finasteride is not fatal in that sense, but it does have long-term health concerns that could be fatal.
In addition to the suicide concerns cited above, finasteride has been linked to prostate cancer. The National Cancer Institute cites a 2003 clinical trial from the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial of almost 19,000 men ages 55 and older who used finasteride every day for seven years.
The study found that the men had a reduced risk of the most common form of prostate cancer while increasing the risk of a particular high-grade, more aggressive form of prostate cancer. Because of these results, the FDA required a black box warning on the label about the risk of prostate cancer.
Thankfully, other options exist for those with hair loss who want to improve their appearance. ARTAS® Robotic Hair Restoration is one possibility, and it is a minimally invasive procedure that is permanent and creates natural-looking results.
RHRLI Are the Hair Restoration Experts
If you are suffering from hair loss, we here at RHRLI have the experience to evaluate the type of hair loss and whether you would be a good candidate for hair restoration. Our state-of-the-art facility uses the ARTAS® robot for precise results and faster healing. To learn more as to why RHRLI is Long Island’s hair restoration leader, contact us today.