When medical treatment brings on disease: iatrogenic disorders

Those who have lasting dysfunctions after taking finasteride or dutasteride are not the only ones whose lives have been altered for the worse because of a medical treatment. This post summarizes diseases and conditions that may arise from medical treatments: five in dermatology, four in psychiatry and one in general medicine.

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Every treatment has been approved by FDA—although some have had warnings and restrictions added after initial approval (e.g., isotretinoin and fluoroquinolones). Many doctors believe they are safe and effective, and some patients have found them effective and tolerable. The safety of some treatments remains a subject of debate among doctors and researchers.

This website does not take an absolutist position against these treatments; rather, it advocates for:

  • informed consent of the patient;
  • medical advice in the best interest of the patient and free of industry influence;
  • respect for the dignity of the patient; and
  • research free of industry influence.

Common threads

Although these treatments have different mechanisms and treat different conditions, there are many commonalities in the experience of those harmed by them, including:

Prior to treatment:

  • Lack of informed consent: patients were not fully informed of the risks of treatment before it was offered;
  • Inflated expectations due to physician advice and marketing;
  • Incomplete or unavailable information about harms.

During and after treatment:

  • Denial, discounting or deflection of adverse effects when reported. Contributing factors include preference for official medical knowledge over individual experience; physician distaste for ambiguity or the unfamiliar; and fear of liability. Some physicians will readily toss unwelcome complaints into the wastebasket of “psychological problems.”
  • Lack of awareness of new regulatory warnings or product recalls;
  • Loss of trust in medicine; demoralization; isolation.

Systemic problems:

  • Biases in clinical trials and medical literature, including publication bias and investigator bias in detection and characterization of adverse effects;
  • Lack of funding for research on treatment-emergent diseases and conditions;
  • Gaps in regulation of medical devices (see 2011 IOM report).

Treatment-emergent (iatrogenic) diseases and conditions

Treatment Treatment-emergent harm or conditionResources
DERMATOLOGY
Finasteride or dutasteride for hair lossLasting dysfunctions in sexual, neuropsychiatric, cognitive and other domainsPFS Foundation
PFS Network
This website: finasterideinfo.org
LiposuctionVisceral fat deposits; embolism; infection; loss of body contours; death.Liposuction – Do You Consent?
Liposuction: Is It Magic?
Fatal Outcomes from Liposuction
Cryolipolysis; branded CoolSculpting with Zeltiq deviceParadoxical adipose hyperplasia (PAH)People: Supermodel Linda Evangelista...‘Brutally Disfigured’ by CoolSculpting…
NBC News: Linda Evangelista shares photos of what she calls disfiguring CoolSculpting effects
Breast implantsBreast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL)
Systemic symptoms including joint pain, muscle aches, confusion, chronic fatigue & autoimmune diseases
FDA: Breast Implants – Certain Labeling Recommendations to Improve Patient Communication Final Guidance
Breast Implant Safety Alliance
Isotretinoin for acnePersistent sexual dysfunctionHealy et al., Diagnostic criteria for enduring sexual dysfunction after treatment with antidepressants, finasteride and isotretinoin
PSYCHIATRY
SSRI/SNRI antidepressantsPost-SSRI sexual dysfunction
Antidepressant withdrawal syndrome
Post-SSRI Sexual Dysfunction: A Literature Review
PSSD Canada
Adele Framer, What I have learnt from helping thousands of people taper off antidepressants…
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for depressionSignificantly worsening depression and anxiety; cognitive impairment; irritability; fatigueCan Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Hurt You?
TMS side effects website
VTAG group on Facebook
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for major depressionPermanent memory loss and cognitive impairmentKolar, 2017: Current status of ECT
BMJ Head to Head, 2019: Should we stop using electroconvulsive therapy?
Read et al., 2021: Electroconvulsive therapy for depression: a review…
Antipsychotics for schizophreniaAkathisiaMISSD
Akathisia Alliance
GENERAL MEDICINE
Fluoroquinolones for infectionsDisturbances in attention, disorientation, agitation, nervousness, memory impairment and delirium
Hypoglycemic coma
Disabling and potentially permanent side effects involving tendons, muscles, joints, nerves and the central nervous system
FDA news release (2018): FDA updates warnings for fluoroquinolone antibiotics on risks of mental health and low blood sugar adverse reactions
Consumer Reports: Fluoroquinolones Are Too Risky for Common Infections