Propecia and Depression

The relationship between using Propecia and becoming depressed has again gained media interest. The most recent example of this comes from a man that went on to the TV show ‘This Morning’ to explain how he believed the use of Propecia led to serious psychiatric side effects.

According to the Daily Mail, he had used the treatment for six weeks before getting symptoms such as low mood and insomnia. It then got progressively worse, as he started having sexual difficulties and eventually went to a psychiatric unit. His story was compared to a study that is due to be published in Journal of Sexual Medicine, which (we are told) suggests that up to 94% of their participants developed sexual dysfunction after using Propecia.

The story is an interesting read, but sadly it also leaves many unanswered questions. Whilst the experience explained on the TV show is unfortunate, we do not have information about other factors that may have played a role. There is no information as to whether he had previously had depression, whether he had a genetic vulnerability that was exasperated by the use of Propecia, whether other events in his life coincided to trigger depression and so forth. We also do not know if there were other co-morbidities or medications that could have played a role. These questions are not polite to ask when a person is telling their story, and perhaps that was why they were left out. However, the report was not made any stronger by quoting an unpublished study, which warrants caution in interpreting any statistics without having evaluated its full data and the place of the study within this line of research.

Overall it is worth highlighting that depression is not a condition that should be taken lightly. Most individuals with some knowledge of mental illness can appreciate the complexities involved in developing depression and all health practitioners should consider depressive side effects as extremely serious. So it is disappointing that a story considering a potential relationship (not causation) was presented in a limited and skewed way, needlessly diminishing a man’s private experience and augmenting fears without foundation. 

You can read more about this story here.