Hair or manhood—choose one?

In ancient Greece, Hippocrates and Aristotle observed that eunuchs did not go bald. Jumping ahead to the early 1940s, American anatomist James B. Hamilton reviewed histories of men with testosterone deficiency and found a pattern: the earlier the age of hormone deficiency, the less balding occurred.

Meta-analysis launders safety data from old pharma trials; blames patients for drug harms

Despite serious methodological shortcomings—including the preposterous use of on-drug safety data as a proxy for a post-drug condition—the authors nevertheless blame the post-drug syndrome on patient shortcomings. Zhang et al. have yoked bad logic to biased data in order to deflect attention away from drug harms.

How was finasteride invented?

Although finasteride came on the market in the 1990s, the underlying research began two decades earlier. The rationale for the drug emerged from a study of a unique group of people in a remote village in the Dominican Republic called Las Salinas. Locals there have long known about children who follow an unusual developmental path: … Read more

Merck’s Propecia business

HIGHLIGHTS Merck received FDA approval for Propecia (finasteride 1 mg/day) in December 1997. Sales in the first year of marketing were reported to be $76 million. The peak years were 2010–2011, when Merck reported $447 million in Propecia sales in each year. In total, Merck booked an estimated $5.2 billion in sales of Propecia. We … Read more

Since 1994, Merck has been aware of unresolved sexual dysfunction in men who stopped taking finasteride

Six months after discontinuing a Phase 3 finasteride trial, a man’s sexual adverse experience was unresolved. There were also 16 men whose drug-related sexual adverse experiences were unresolved at the conclusion of the trial.

The Merck files, part 2: Merck responds to regulatory concerns about persistent adverse effects of Propecia

These documents from 2006–2009 concern Merck’s response to postmarketing reports of persistent erectile dysfunction, male infertility and depressive disorders, among other adverse events, associated with use of finasteride. In 2006, the Swedish Medical Products Agency asked Merck for an analysis of all adverse events affecting the male reproductive system which persisted after stopping Propecia. In … Read more

The Merck files, part 1: An inside look at the development of Propecia

Merck first developed finasteride for benign prostatic hyperplasia, a condition typically found in men aged 55 and older. After receiving approval for the application in 1992 and bringing the drug to market as Proscar, Merck decided to seek approval of finasteride for male pattern hair loss—to be branded as Propecia. In a 1994 memo below, … Read more

The Merck files: a series

Selected documents from Propecia litigation were released by court order in 2021. This series walks through these documents, revealing Merck’s strategy for discounting safety concerns arising from clinical trials and adverse event reports. The collection is divided into three parts: 1. An inside look at the development of Propecia (1994–2001) 2. Merck responds to regulatory … Read more

Merck communications regarding reports of persistent erectile dysfunction and depression associated with finasteride

See also: The Merck files: a series In regulatory, internal and media communications in the 2000s, Merck responded to concerns about reports of adverse events associated with Propecia, including persistent erectile dysfunction and depression. These documents seek to discount the validity of these reports by way of the following points: “insufficient” information including lack of … Read more