The active ingredient in Propecia, finasteride, was linked to prostate cancer by study in 2003. A new study has done a great deal more than just deny that link. We look closer.
Ironically, finasteride was introduced in the early nineties as a treatment for prostate enlargement and only approved for the treatment of scalp hair loss five years later, in 1997. To this day it remains one of only two FDA approved hair loss products on the market, in 2016 it was the 75th most prescribed drug in the US with over 10 million prescriptions.
Those prescriptions always came with a warning. Since a study published in 2003 made a link between its use and the occurrence of high-grade prostate cancers, the same study noted that the drug appeared to provide some protection from lower grade versions. No doubt many candidates were put off its use due to a doctor advising them that this was the case.
A new study, just published in the New England Journal of Medicine, sheds new light on the subject. Researchers looked back at the data from a study carried out between 1993 and 1997 on 19000 men, one of the largest prostate cancer studies ever conducted.
The 25% reduction in the risk of developing prostate cancer was confirmed. Much more importantly they were able to eliminate concern about the link to the high-grade cancers.
An emeritus professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center, named Thompson, explained “Those concerns about high-grade disease have not been borne out and so that was the reason why finasteride has not been used for prevention of a quarter of all prostate cancer. You’re talking about 40000 or more men per year.”
The Future for Finasteride
Sadly, as a generic drug, finasteride does not have the weight of a major pharmaceutical company behind it. Which means the studies necessary to prove its value as a preventative treatment are extremely unlikely to be carried out. So it will continue to carry the 2003 health warning on its label.
That does not mean that doctors will not be able to prescribe it “off label” for patients they believe likely to benefit from that 25% reduction in risk against developing prostate cancer.
HIS Hair Clinic
The black cloud of high-grade prostate cancer has always hung heavy over finasteride use. With its removal as a threat, the remaining side-effects can be considered in their own context.
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