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Hair Loss Treatments

Propecia (Finasteride) and the Risk of Permanent Sexual Side Effects

The hair loss drug Propecia (Finasteride) is one of only two clinically proven and FDA approved medications for the treatment of androgenic alopecia. But, is it safe?

Like other drugs, risks of potential side effects do exist. Some are quite mild, while others may be more severe. The possible side effects of most concern to balding men considering taking the drug are; decreased libido, difficulty in achieving and maintaining an erection, and a decrease in the amount of semen. But, are these side effects permanent or do they disappear upon discontinuation of the drug?

According to Propecia's manufacturer Merck, less than 2% of men taking finasteride for baldness will experience sexual side effects and these side effects will resolve after stopping the drug. However, persistent rumors of permanent sexual side effects associated with finasteride have spurred heated debates and ultimately led the FDA to force Merck to update the warning label to include the possibility of persistent erectile dysfunction and expand the list of potential complications to include; ongoing libido concerns, ejaculation problems, and orgasm disorders after discontinuation of the drug and male infertility and/or poor semen quality that normalized or improved after drug discontinuation.

While the update to the label seems to suggest that there may be some substance to these reports, feedback from users of the drug and medical professional found on discussion forums like our own Hair Restoration Forum and Social Network appears to tell a different story. Reports are generally favorable with recommended hair restoration physicians reporting instances of sexual side effects in line with Merck's studies. 

So, should you take finasteride? For now, Propecia is arguably the most effective, clinically proven non-surgical hair loss treatment. It offers the potential to not only slow the progression of male pattern baldness but also regrow hair. All medical treatments come with some degree of risk. Taking finasteride for hair loss is a personal choice that should be made only after careful research and discussion with your doctor.