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When the antidepressant drug Paxil hit the consumer market in the early 1990s, it was hailed by the medical world as a wonder drug, able to relieve even the most severe cases of mental depression. Like most other antidepressants, Paxil is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). There have been widely-publicized side effects about SSRIs for the patient who takes them. However, not as much has been published about the effects SSRIs can have on babies born to women who are taking them.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the first such warning was in fact issued as early as 2005, when the FDA advised the medical community to discontinue the practice of prescribing Paxil to pregnant women. In 2005, however, the FDA maintained that women who were already on Paxil may face a greater risk to the fetus by discontinuing the medication than by continuing to take it.

This has changed. According to a recent article in The New York Times, the risk of taking SSRIs during pregnancy could be far worse for the fetus than the risk of being depressed. Women, reports the The New York Times, go to great lengths to give their baby the best start to life: they often quit smoking, give up drinking, and decline foods like Brie cheese and swordfish. Yet these same women often do not give up SSRIs, “despite an increasing number of studies linking prenatal exposure to birth defects, complications after birth, and even developmental delays and autism.” A recent study out of John Hopkins University found that young boys with autism were more than 30 percent more likely to have been exposed to SSRIs via their mother during prenatal development.

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Several forms of testosterone therapy have come under fire lately due to concerns for patient safety. According to WebMD, while the practice of prescribing hormonal therapy treatment to men with low testosterone has recently become more and more common, the long-term safety and side effects are not yet clear.

This year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it now requires such products to add a general warning about potential blood clots in the veins that are known to occur with certain testosterone therapies. Other therapies are known to result in negative side effects for the heart.

A study published by PLOS ONE has found “a twofold increase in risk of nonfatal heart attack shortly after initiation of testosterone therapy,” when used by men under the age of 65 who suffer from heart disease. However, it is noted that men, ranging in the millions, utilize testosterone as a lifestyle drug as a means to reverse the natural testosterone decrease men experience as they age.

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Testosterone therapy has become increasingly popular in recent years as discussions of male hypogonadism have become more commonplace. Male hypogonadism occurs when a man has low levels of testosterone, shorthanded as low T.

To help overcome low T levels, men undergo testosterone therapy to help the body produce the correct levels of hormones that it would not otherwise sufficiently produce.

According to DrugWatch.com, testosterone therapies are an extremely popular treatment, yet recent research has shown that these types of therapies are inextricably linked to higher risks of heart failure and attacks.

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Posted on in Drugs

A recent Health Professional Follow-Up Study (HPFS) has found that erectile dysfunction drugs (such as Viagra) are linked to an increased risk of a dangerous type of cancer. The study showed that men who were taking Viagra were nearly 85 percent more likely to develop melanoma (a fatal type of skin cancer) than those who were not. Men who had previously taken Viagra and had ceased taking the drug were still twice as likely to develop melanoma than men who had never taken it.

The active ingredient, or clinical name for Viagra, is sildenafil. The drug, researchers found, “affects cell pathways that allow melanoma to spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body,” reports Drugwatch.com. This type of skin cancer is responsible for nearly 10,000 deaths annually in the U.S., and an estimated 76,000 cases of melanoma are diagnosed in the same time period.

This, however, has not led physicians to recommend patients cease taking Viagra if they have been on the drug for an extended period of time. Dr. Abrar Qureshi, Chairman of the Dermatology Department at Brown University, told Drugwatch.com that the study was not one that measured cause and effect, but one in which patients self-reported rates of skin cancer.

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The FDA recently launched a comprehensive investigation into the “low T” testosterone therapy program. Early research indicates that men may face a higher risk of premature death, stroke, or heart attacks by undergoing this therapy. This is just the latest in a string of defective medical devices and treatments, being investigated by the government, that end up harming patients. For some patients, it is too little, too late.

The evaluation of the therapy was launched after two large studies were found to increase the likelihood of a cardiovascular incident. The federal agency is now exploring whether the possible benefits of the therapy are outweighed by the potential negative impacts on the male patients who use it. At present, these drugs are only advised for men who have low T and a linked medical condition. However, research shows that some men may be undergoing the therapy without actually needing it.

One of the studies spurring the investigation found that within 90 days of starting the therapy, heart attack risks could be doubled in men aged 65 and over, tripling the risk for younger men with a known heart condition. A previous study found that there were increases of up to 30 percent for heart attacks, strokes, and death in men over the age of 60 who were using low T testosterone therapy.

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