Effects of 5-alpha reductase inhibitors: new insights on benefits and harms

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Purpose of review

The use of 5-alpha reductase inhibitors (5ARIs) for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and other diseases has been proposed and studied. However, the controversy about its benefits and harms for other diseases has persisted. In this review, we will discuss the newly identified effects of 5ARIs based on recently published studies.

Recent findings

These drugs are currently recommended in clinical guidelines for BPH. However, the reporting of adverse effects, including sexual dysfunction as well as neurologic, endocrine, and cardiovascular effects, have been controversial. There are reports of additional effects of 5ARI in prostate cancer and bladder cancer. Although 5ARIs have been prescribed for the treatment of androgenic alopecia (AGA), postfinasteride syndrome can result, with symptoms that range from sexual dysfunction to muscle atrophy.


Clinical applications of 5ARIs have been established for the treatment of BPH and AGA from a series of randomized controlled trials. The adverse effects of 5ARIs affect only a small proportion of treated patients and can be resolved with discontinued treatment. It will be necessary to establish the mechanism by which 5ARIs elicit these effects through better designed studies.

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