Men worried about taking finasteride, a drug proven effective in preventing prostate cancer, just because it might effect their performance in the bedroom, can now put their fears to rest, thanks to a new study.
The study, by researchers from the Southwest Oncology Group, found that though the drug does cause a drop in sexual function, the effects diminish over the course of time.
As a part of their study, the researchers surveyed more than 17,000 men 55 and older for seven years, and found that though men given finasteride reported on average more dysfunction than did men given a placebo, the small effect diminished over the seven years.
The study was led by Carol Moinpour, Ph.D., of the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
The study grew out of the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial, a large double-blind National Cancer Institute-funded study which found that finasteride, a drug which curbs the proliferation of prostate gland cells, is effective at preventing prostate cancer in men age 55 and older.
The 2003 results of that trial, conducted by the Southwest Oncology Group in more than 18,000 men, showed that finasteride could reduce a man's chances of getting prostate cancer by almost 25 percent.
In earlier studies, some men taking finasteride reported decreased libido, impotence and other signs of diminished sexual function. But researchers conducting the new study reported that the previous studies were studies were short-term and didn't try to assess the effects of age and other health factors, as well as individual variation.
The study authors used two surveys, a widely used Sexual Problems Scale and another questionnaire which they created, the Sexual Activity Scale. They also gathered other data to take into account other health factors that affect sexual function, such as age, medical conditions and smoking status. They surveyed the subjects three times in the first year and then annually for seven years.
"Was this average decrease (in sexual function) an important difference? We concluded it was not," Moinpour said, adding that there were much larger differences due simply to individual variation among men in the trial.
The study suggests that finasteride will cause little or no sexual dysfunction for most men who decide to take it, conclude the authors.