Finasteride is sold under several different brand names, the most popular being Propecia. It is a synthetic male hormone that limits production of type II 5-alpha reductase, the enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is the male hormone associated with thinning hair in men with male pattern baldness.
Finasteride was first used as a treatment for enlarged prostate, and hair growth was noticed as a side effect. So the big question is “Can you use Finasteride to grow hair without having prostate side effects?” Well, the USFDA thinks so and approved finasteride to treat male pattern hair loss in 1997:
Ivy Fleischer Kupec: 301-827-6242
December 22, 1997 Consumer Inquiries: 800-532-4440
FDA APPROVES FINASTERIDE TO TREAT MALE PATTERN HAIR LOSS IN MEN
FDA has approved Propecia for hair loss, making it the first such treatment for men in pill form. The following can be used to answer questions:
The active ingredient in Propecia is finasteride. Finasteride was approved initially in 1992 as Proscar, a treatment for prostate enlargement. There is 1 mg of finasteride in Propecia and 5 mg in Proscar. It was observed that some patients being treated for prostate enlargement had some regrowth of hair in areas of male pattern hair loss.
The sponsor studied 1 mg of finasteride and demonstrated hair growth in male pattern hair loss. The number of hairs increased in the anterior midscalp and vertex. Patient self-assessment of hair growth was also superior to placebo. Side effects were infrequent and were related to sexual function.
The drug will not be marketed for women because it causes birth defects, and the safety and efficacy have not been established in women.
Recently, FDA’s Dermatologic and Ophthalmic Drugs Advisory Committee discussed Propecia. The committee offered labeling suggestions in the context of an overall generally favorable discussion. Merck & Co. of West Point, Pa., manufactures both Proscar and Propecia.
There have been other clinical studies done that claim finasteride is safe for hair growth and to prevent further hair loss, including this one:
Finasteride in the treatment of men with androgenetic alopecia. Finasteride Male Pattern Hair Loss Study Group.
Kaufman KD, Olsen EA, Whiting D, Savin R, DeVillez R, Bergfeld W, Price VH, Van Neste D, Roberts JL, Hordinsky M, Shapiro J, Binkowitz B, Gormley GJ.
Department of Clinical Research, Merck Research Laboratories, Rahway, NJ 07065, USA.
BACKGROUND: Androgenetic alopecia (male pattern hair loss) is caused by androgen-dependent miniaturization of scalp hair follicles, with scalp dihydrotestosterone (DHT) implicated as a contributing cause. Finasteride, an inhibitor of type II 5alpha-reductase, decreases serum and scalp DHT by inhibiting conversion of testosterone to DHT. OBJECTIVE: Our purpose was to determine whether finasteride treatment leads to clinical improvement in men with male pattern hair loss. METHODS: In two 1-year trials, 1553 men (18 to 41 years of age) with male pattern hair loss received oral finasteride 1 mg/d or placebo, and 1215 men continued in blinded extension studies for a second year. Efficacy was evaluated by scalp hair counts, patient and investigator assessments and review of photographs by an expert panel. RESULTS: Finasteride treatment improved scalp hair by all evaluation techniques at 1 and 2 years (P < .001 vs placebo, all comparisons). Clinically significant increases in hair count (baseline = 876 hairs), measured in a 1-inch diameter circular area (5.1 cm2) of balding vertex scalp, were observed with finasteride treatment (107 and 138 hairs vs placebo at 1 and 2 years, respectively; P < .001). Treatment with placebo resulted in progressive hair loss. Patients’ self-assessment demonstrated that finasteride treatment slowed hair loss, increased hair growth, and improved appearance of hair. These improvements were corroborated by investigator assessments and assessments of photographs. Adverse effects were minimal. CONCLUSION: In men with male pattern hair loss, finasteride 1 mg/d slowed the progression of hair loss and increased hair growth in clinical trials over 2 years.
Propecia’s website, produced by MERK manufacturing provides the following information regarding research of Proceia (finasteride):
In a 5-year study of men with mild to moderate hair loss, 48% of those treated with Propecia (finasteride 1mg) experienced some regrowth of hair, and a further 42% had no further loss. Average hair count in the treatment group remained above baseline, and showed an increasing difference from hair count in the placebo group, for all five years of the study. Propecia is effective only for as long as it is taken; the hair gained or maintained is lost within 6-12 months of ceasing therapy. In clinical studies, Propecia, like minoxidil, was shown to work on both the crown area and the hairline, but is most successful in the crown area.
Finasteride is available by prescription only in the United States. However, it is available online through foreign sites, apparently without any prescription required. I was able to purchase 60 tablets for $25 plus $8 shipping to the mainland United States, with a cashiers check, credit card or personal check.
The USFDA has approved the use of 1 mg finasteride by men for male pattern hair loss. It has not been approved for use in women or at dosages greater than 1 mg.
Side Effects of finasteride
In general use, some men have shown the following side effects: rash, itching, hives and swelling of the lips and face, breast tenderness and enlargement, testicular pain and problems with ejaculation. You should consult your doctor if there are any changes in your breast such as pain, lumps or nipple discharge or any other unusual side effects.
Finasteride should not be handled by women who are pregnant or might become pregnant. Handling finasteride can cause birth defects!
Brand Names Containing Finasteride for hair loss
Brand names include Propecia and Proscar. Generic trade names include Appecia, Prosteride, Finca and Finpecia, Finax, Finast, Finalo and Finara.
Finasteride has been proven with clinical as well as empirical results to stop hair loss in men with male pattern baldness and to encourage re-growth of hair in men with male pattern baldness. Finasteride should not be used by women. Finasteride can cause birth defects.