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Depressive Symptoms and Suicidal Thoughts Among Former Users of Finasteride With Persistent Sexual Side Effects

J Clin Psychiatry 2012;73(9):1220-1223
10.4088/JCP.12m07887

Objective: Finasteride, a commonly prescribed medication for male pattern hair loss, has recently been associated with persistent sexual side effects. In addition, depression has recently been added to the product labeling of Propecia (finasteride 1 mg). Finasteride reduces the levels of several neuroactive steroids linked to sexual function and depression. This study assesses depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts in former users of finasteride who developed persistent sexual side effects despite the discontinuation of finasteride.

Method: In 2010–2011, former users of finasteride (n = 61) with persistent sexual side effects for ≥ 3 months were administered standardized interviews that gathered demographic information, medical and psychiatric histories, and information on medication use, sexual function, and alcohol consumption. All former users were otherwise healthy men with no baseline sexual dysfunction, chronic medical conditions, current or past psychiatric conditions, or use of oral prescription medications before or during finasteride use. A control group of men (n = 29), recruited from the community, had male pattern hair loss but had never used finasteride and denied any history of psychiatric conditions or use of psychiatric medications. The primary outcomes were the prevalence of depressive symptoms and the prevalence of suicidal thoughts as determined by the Beck Depression Inventory II (BDI-II); all subjects self-administered this questionnaire at the time of the interview or up to 10 months later.

Results: Rates of depressive symptoms (BDI-II score ≥ 14) were significantly higher in the former finasteride users (75%; 46/61) as compared to the controls (10%; 3/29) (P < .0001). Moderate or severe depressive symptoms (BDI-II score ≥ 20) were present in 64% (39/61) of the finasteride group and 0% of the controls. Suicidal thoughts were present in 44% (27/61) of the former finasteride users and in 3% (1/29) of the controls (P < .0001).

Conclusions: Clinicians and potential users of finasteride should be aware of the potential risk of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts. The preliminary findings of this study warrant further research with controlled studies.

J Clin Psychiatry

Submitted: May 10, 2012; accepted June 25, 2012.

Online ahead of print: August 7, 2012 (doi:10.4088/JCP.12m07887).

Corresponding author: Michael S. Irwig, MD, Division of Endocrinology, Medical Faculty Associates and George Washington University, 2150 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Ste 3-416, Washington, DC 20037 (mirwig@mfa.gwu.edu).