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Long-Lasting Sexual Side Effects from Prostate Pill

Dutasteride and finasteride, prescribed for prostate enlargement, can both cause long-lasting sexual side effects such as erectile dysfunction or low libido.

If a side effect might last long after you stop taking the drug, wouldn’t you want to know of that possibility before you started on it? Relatively few men are warned about the risk of long-lasting sexual side effects before they start taking a medication for an enlarged prostate gland.

Treating an Enlarged Prostate:

Q. I have been taking Avodart for several years for an enlarged prostate. For the last year and a half I have been suffering from depression.

I read that finasteride can cause depression. Since Avodart is similar to finasteride, I wonder if Avodart could be causing my depression.

I also have some sexual side effects, in particular low semen volume and lack of sensation during an orgasm. Is all this related to my medication?

A. Dutasteride (Avodart) and finasteride (Proscar) are prescribed for symptoms of enlarged prostate. Finasteride (Propecia) is also used to restore hair growth in male pattern baldness.

New research suggests that finasteride is linked to depression, even at the lower dose used to treat hair loss. The depression may last after the drug is discontinued (Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Sept. 2012).

Other complications include long-lasting sexual side effects such as low libido, erectile problems, reduced penis size and reduced sensation or pleasure during orgasm (Journal of Sexual Medicine, Nov. 2012).

Dutasteride as Well as Finasteride May Cause Long-Lasting Sexual Side Effects:

Dutasteride might cause similar side effects (Journal of Sexual Medicine, March, 2011). Perhaps the most troubling recent finding is that complications may last for months or even years after stopping the drugs.

One reader wrote:

“What a shocker! My hubby started on Avodart in 1995, and he was only 55. Shortly afterwards, he had no interest in sex at all. (But he wasn’t going to the bathroom so many times at night.) I thought it was me, and did everything I could to get him interested. But my efforts were to no avail. I wish I had heard about the sexual side effects of this drug many years ago, as I would have spoken with his doctor instead of giving up and switching to flannel pajamas.”

Finasteride Trouble:

Urologists have reported that finasteride could cause long-lasting sexual side effects that might even be permanent. In 2013, confirmation came from the FDA’s adverse event reporting system that undesirable sexual side effects may persist long after the drug is discontinued.

The QuarterWatch report from the Institute for Safe Medication Practices reveals that three fourths of the noted side effects for finasteride involved serious sexual difficulties. In many cases the complications appeared to persist long after the drug was stopped.

QuarterWatch, Jan. 9, 2013

We interviewed Dr. Michael Irwig, a urologist who has written about this problem. To hear more, listen to our show #879, Dangers in the Drugstore.

Research Confirms That Sexual Side Effects Are Problematic:

Some recent studies have shown that erectile dysfunction and poor sexual performance are common among men taking dutasteride, even among relatively young men (Aging Male, March 10, 2016). Some investigators urge clinicians to discuss this with their patients before writing a prescription (Hormone Molecular Biology and Clinical Investigation, Sep. 2015). If the urologist or dermatologist does not volunteer this information when offering treatment with dutasteride or finasteride, a man should definitely ask about it.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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