Finasteride is a drug that is used for the treatment of MPB (male pattern baldness) and BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia).
Benign prostatic hyperplasia is also commonly referred to as an enlarged prostate. The symptoms of BHP include frequent urination (mostly at night), difficulty in urinating, decreased flow of urine and hesitation at the beginning of urination. Finasteride is used to combat these symptoms. However, alpha-1 blockers like tamsulosin provide more and faster symptomatic relief than finasteride does. In order for there to be some therapeutic results of the treatment of these symptoms, it is required that one takes finasteride for about six months. Studies have shown that it is finasteride rather than alpha-1 blockers that reduce one’s risk of contracting acute urinary retention and hence a need for surgery.
Finasteride is also used to treat androgenetic alopecia (which is also known as male pattern baldness). After six months of treatment, finasteride can improve hair loss by about 30 percent. However, for there to be a continued effect of this improvement, one must keep taking the drug. If one stops taking the drug, one’s hair will continue lessening.
Other uses of finasteride include hormone replacement therapy. It is used along with a type of oestrogen (because of the anti-androgen properties is possesses) for male to female transsexuals. There is very little research available for this use of finasteride and hence there is very little substantiation of its effectiveness.
It is rare that one may experience undesirable effects of finasteride. Alpha-5 reductase blockers come with an increased risk of prostate cancer, according to the FDA. Prostate-specific antigen levels are lowered during the treatment of benign prostate hyperplasia and as a result, the development of prostate cancer could be hidden.
There are also some reports that state the increase in cases of male breast cancer thanks to the continued use of finasteride. However, there is not enough evidence available to prove or disprove the links between finasteride and breast cancer (or prostate cancer, for that matter).
There is some controversy regarding finasteride’s effect on a man’s sexual function. Some reports state that the continued use of this drug has resulted in reduced libido and in some cases erectile dysfunction. The FDA has made sure to include this information in the label of the drug so that healthcare professionals are aware of the potential dangers of prescribing it. There is a little evidence that supports the cases of erectile dysfunction and other types of sexual dysfunction.
A more recent study concluded that the clinical trials of this drug did not have ample safety reporting. It also did not offer enough useful information that backs the safety profile of the hair loss treating qualities of finasteride. The clinical trials of finasteride for the treatment of male pattern baldness that currently exist do not provide sufficient information regarding its toxicity (or lack thereof).
Finasteride was first approved for the treatment of male pattern baldness back in 1997. At the time, the FDA stated that the drug appeared “well tolerated”. The most common adverse effects of finasteride are mostly of the sexual dysfunction variety. For most men who stop taking this medication, sexual function is restored. At times, the issues of sexual dysfunction are resolved even when the medication is still continued.