Male pattern baldness is no laughing matter and, in fact, for many it is a part of life. Approximately 20 million men in the U.S. currently experience some level of hair loss, and one in four men will begin to go bald by their 30th birthday. By the time they reach 60 years of age, 2 out of 3 men are bald. Hair loss can greatly impact a man’s self-esteem and make them feel less confident in seeking career opportunities or dating. Men have opened up about their feelings in interviews and on blogs talking about how they equate losing their hair with losing their youth.

PropeciaPills.jpgFighting Back

The hair restoration industry is a $621 billion business. Remedies for male pattern baldness run the gamut from surgical procedures to pharmaceuticals and herbal supplements. In 1997, Merck gained approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to market Propecia® (finasteride) for the treatment of male pattern baldness. Thousands of men flocked to their physicians to get prescriptions in hopes to regain their hair by simply taking a pill. As it turned out, Propecia® did contribute to an increase in the number of scalp hairs during the first year of treatment. It also slowed the occurrence of hair loss.
At What Cost
Some of the men who took Propecia® experienced sexual side effects such as erectile dysfunction (ED) and loss of libido. Merck stated that once a patient stopped taking the drug the side effects would go away. However, there are numerous complaints of ED lasting for months after stopping Propecia® treatment, and in some instances the the ED is permanent. In 2008, after much discussion, Merck changed Propecia® labels in Europe stating that side effects could persist after a patient stops taking the drug. In the U.S., Merck has not changed its labels or issued any kind of notice to patients about potential long term side effects.
What’s Next
Because Merck failed to warn consumers, men who took Propecia® did so without knowledge of the long-term consequences. Lawsuits against Merck have been filed in the U.S. by men who have experienced severe sexual side effects as a result of taking Propecia®. Read more about Propecia®’s link to erectile dysfunction.