Purpose of Review
Post-finasteride syndrome (PFS) is a disorder characterized by a set of clinical symptoms experienced during use or after drug discontinuation. This cluster of symptoms encompasses overall sexual dysfunction (SD), erectile dysfunction (ED), loss of libido, depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, and cognitive dysfunction. To date, there is lack of comprehensive understanding of the biochemical and pathophysiological mechanisms responsible for the adverse effects of finasteride. More importantly, there is lack of knowledge and effective clinical tools for treatments of this condition, resulting in outright dismissal of complaints by individuals afflicted with this syndrome. Psychological symptoms and cognitive dysfunction of PFS are far more serious and difficult to treat than sexual dysfunction symptoms and may lead young men to contemplate, attempt, or even commit suicide. Therefore, an urgent need exists to fill the knowledge gap in physiology, pathophysiology, and clinical management of patients with PFS.
Finasteride treatment impairs biosynthesis and function of neurosteroids, which are critical regulators of central (CNS) as well as peripheral nervous system functions and modulate a host of neurotransmitter receptors, such as gamma amino butyric acid receptors. Thus, finasteride-induced neuroendocrine disruption of biosynthesis of critical signaling molecules results in pathophysiological states, which contribute to inhibition of biochemical pathways responsible for a host of physiological functions, ranging from sexual activity, mood, and cognition. In addition, finasteride-induced epigenetic changes in gene expression, including upregulation of androgen receptors (AR), increased histone acetylation, and methylation results in undesirable biological outcomes such as impairment of dopaminergic signaling and modulation of other neurotransmitter receptors, may be the underlying mechanism causing persistent or permanent adverse effects, manifested in anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation.
The medical community has an obligation not to turn a blind eye on this rare yet debilitating condition in young men. Patients with this condition should not be stereotyped or stigmatized by untrained and unprepared clinicians, due to lack of awareness and knowledge pertaining to this new and rare syndrome. Greater awareness and education is needed among the medical and scientific communities in order to develop better approaches for managing men with PFS. It is paramount that steps are taken to develop better understanding of the underlying mechanisms contributing to the onset and progression of PFS and to promote educational and training programs to increase awareness and improve management of this condition.