Dutasteride, one of the most widely used 5α-reductase inhibitors.
|Synonyms||Dihydrotestosterone antagonists; Dihydrotestosterone blockers|
|Use||Benign prostatic hyperplasia, androgenic alopecia, hirsutism, transgender women|
5α-Reductase inhibitors (5-ARIs) are a class of drugs with antiandrogen effects, used primarily in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) (enlarged prostate) and androgenic alopecia (pattern hair loss). They are also used less commonly to treat hirsutism (excessive hair growth) in women.
These agents inhibit the enzyme 5α-reductase, which is involved in the metabolic transformations of a variety of endogenous steroids. 5α-reductase inhibition is most known for preventing conversion of testosterone, the major androgen sex hormone, to the more potent dihydrotestosterone (DHT), in androgen-associated disorders.
5-ARIs are clinically used in the treatment of conditions that are exacerbated by DHT:
- Mild-to-moderate benign prostatic hyperplasia and lower urinary tract symptoms
- Androgenic alopecia in both men and women
They have also been explored in the treatment and prevention of prostate cancer. While the 5-ARI finasteride reduces the cancer risk by about a third, it also increases the fraction of aggressive forms of prostate cancer. Overall, there does not seem to be a survival benefit for prostate cancer patients under finasteride.
5-ARIs can be used in the treatment of hirsutism in women.
In general, adverse drug reactions (ADRs) experienced with 5-ARIs are dose-dependent. Common ADRs include impotence, decreased libido, decreased ejaculate volume. Rare ADRs include breast tenderness and enlargement (gynecomastia), and allergic reaction. Other symptoms such as depression, and anxiety have been claimed with the use of 5-ARIs such as finasteride, however no significant difference in depression scores and loss of libido, compared to unaffected individuals, has been confirmed. Finasteride has also been associated with intraoperative floppy iris syndrome and cataract formation.
The FDA has notified healthcare professionals that the Warnings and Precautions section of the labels for the 5-ARI class of drugs has been revised to include new safety information about the increased risk of being diagnosed with a more serious form of prostate cancer (high-grade prostate cancer).
Sexual dysfunction, including erectile dysfunction, loss of libido, and reduced ejaculate, may occur in 3.4 to 15.8% of men treated with finasteride or dutasteride. This is linked to lower quality of life and can cause stress in relationships. There is also an association with lowered sexual desire. It has been reported that in a subset of men, these adverse sexual side effects may persist even after discontinuation of finasteride or dutasteride.
Depression and self-harm
A recent, very large, population-based, matched-cohort study of 93,197 men aged 66 years and older found that finasteride and dutasteride were associated with a significantly increased risk of depression (HR, 1.94; 95% CI, 1.73–2.16) and self-harm (HR, 1.88; 95% CI, 1.34–2.64) during the first 18 months of treatment, but were not associated with an increased risk of suicide (HR, 0.88; 95% CI, 0.53–1.45). After the initial 18 months of therapy, the risk of self-harm was no longer heightened, whereas the elevation in risk of depression lessened but remained marginally increased (HR, 1.22; 95% CI, 1.08–1.37). The absolute increase in the rate of depression was 247 per 100,000 patient-years and of self-harm was 17 per 100,000 patient-years. As such, on the basis of these statistics, it has been stated that cases of depression in patients that are attributable to 5α-reductase inhibitors will be encountered on occasion, while cases of self-harm attributable to 5α-reductase inhibitors will be encountered very rarely. There were no significant differences in the rates of depression, self-harm, and suicide between finasteride and dutasteride, indicating that type of 5α-reductase inhibitor does not appear to influence the risks.
The pharmacology of 5α-reductase inhibition is complex, but involves the binding of NADPH to the enzyme followed by the substrate. Specific substrates include testosterone, progesterone, androstenedione, epitestosterone, cortisol, aldosterone, and deoxycorticosterone. The entire physiologic effect of their reduction is unknown, but likely related to their excretion or is itself physiologic. Beyond being a catalyst in the rate-limiting step in testosterone reduction, 5α-reductase isoforms I and II reduce progesterone to 5α-dihydroprogesterone (5α-DHP) and deoxycorticosterone to dihydrodeoxycorticosterone (DHDOC). In vitro and animal models suggest subsequent 3α-reduction of DHT, 5α-DHP and DHDOC lead to neurosteroid metabolites with effect on cerebral function. These neurosteroids, which include allopregnanolone, tetrahydrodeoxycorticosterone (THDOC), and 3α-androstanediol, act as potent positive allosteric modulators of GABAA receptors, and have anticonvulsant, antidepressant, anxiolytic, prosexual, and anticonvulsant effects. 5α-Dihydrocortisol is present in the aqueous humor of the eye, is synthesized in the lens, and might help make the aqueous humor itself. 5α-Dihydroaldosterone is a potent antinatriuretic agent, although different from aldosterone. Its formation in the kidney is enhanced by restriction of dietary salt, suggesting it may help retain sodium as follows:
- Substrate + NADPH + H+ → 5α-substrate + NADP+
5α-DHP is a major hormone in circulation of normal cycling and pregnant women.
Inhibition of the enzyme can be classified into two categories: steroidal and nonsteroidal. The steroidal class has more inhibitors with examples including finasteride (MK-906), dutasteride (GG745), 4-MA, turosteride, MK-386, MK-434, and MK-963. Several have pursued synthesis of nonsteroidals to inhibit 5α-reductase due to the undesired side effects of steroidals. The most potent and selective inhibitors of 5α-R1 are found in this class, and include benzoquinolones, nonsteroidal aryl acids, butanoid acid derivatives, and more recognizably, polyunsaturated fatty acids (especially gamma-linolenic acid), zinc, and green tea.
Inhibition of 5α-reductase results in decreased conversion of testosterone to DHT by reducing the Δ4,5 double-bond. This, in turn, results in slight elevations in testosterone and estradiol levels. Gynecomastia, sexual dysfunction, and depression, are some possible side effects of 5α-reductase inhibition.
Other enzymes compensate to a degree for the absent conversion, specifically with local expression at the skin of reductive 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, and oxidative 3α-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase and 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase enzymes.
In BPH, DHT acts as a potent cellular androgen and promotes prostate growth; therefore, it inhibits and alleviates symptoms of BPH. In alopecia, male and female-pattern baldness is an effect of androgenic receptor activation, so reducing levels of DHT also reduces hair loss.
5-ARIs used in medicine
Finasteride (Proscar or Propecia) inhibits the function of two of the isoenzymes (type II and III), whereas dutasteride inhibits all three. Finasteride potently inhibits 5α-R2 at a mean inhibitory concentration IC50 of 69 nM, but is less effective with 5α-R1 until an IC50 of 360 nM. Finasteride decreases mean serum level of DHT by 71% after 6 months, and was shown in vitro to inhibit 5α-R3 at a similar potency to 5α-R2 in transfected cell lines. Long term side effects can occur after discontinuation of the drug.
Dutasteride (Avodart) has more complete suppression of all three 5α-reductase isoenzymes. It inhibits types 1 and 2 better than finasteride, leading to it causing further reduction in DHT at 6 months than the older drug (94.7% versus 70.8%). It also reduces intraprostatic DHT 97% in men with prostate cancer at 5 milligrams per day over three months. A second study with 3.5 mg/d for 4 months decreased intraprostatic DHT even further by 99%. It has also been shown to inhibit the 5α-R3 isoenzyme in vitro, suggesting that dutasteride may be a triple 5α reductase inhibitor in vivo.
Saw palmetto extract
An extract of Serenoa repens, also known as saw palmetto extract, is a 5-ARI that is sold as an over-the-counter dietary supplement. It is also used under the brand name Permixon in Europe as a pharmaceutical drug for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia.
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