Today’s NEJM has a great article written by our colleagues who headed this study designed to ask whether taking finasteride could reduce the incidence/death rate of prostate cancer. This is the same group that reported on fish oil being a risk as I have previously discussed. The main finding of the PCPT trial was that taking finasteride (Proscar™) could reduce the rate of prostate cancer, BUT that there were more high grade cancers in the group taking the drug compared to placebo. As a result of this finding (which has been the subject of extensive discussion and speculation…for example one analysis suggests that this is an artifact of making high grade cancers easier to find because the prostate volume shrinks by about 1/3 in men on finasteride), the FDA issued a warning against taking finasteride or dutasteride. In the article released today, the investigators reported on the long term outcome of the study. As usual, the results are creating much discussion, and differing points of view. Overall there was NO DIFFERENCE in the death rate among men taking finasteride vs. placebo. 78% of men in each group survived 15 years. Moreover, there was no difference in the death rate among men who did develop cancer regardless of whether they were on finasteride or placebo. The investigators suggest this means it is reasonable to take finasteride to reduce the incidence of men who must deal with a diagnosis. Of course another approach (favored by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force) is not to screen at all (remember all the patients in the trial were being screened by psa testing). Based on these considerations, I think it would be reasonable to recommend finasteride as a preventative in men who have a positive family history. Purists would point out that this has not been tested and would require a prospective trial before making such a recommendation. Where is Diogenes when we need him???