Propecia is the trade name for the drug Finasteride, which prevents the conversion of the male hormone testosterone into a form called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in the body. Though safe for use in men, it is generally not used at all in women due to an increased risk of birth defects should a woman be exposed to the drug while pregnant.
In 1997, Merck successfully obtained U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the marketing of Finasteride — under the trade name Propecia — for use in treating male pattern baldness. Prior to that, Finasteride gained FDA approval in 1992 — under the brand name Proscar — for treatment of a prostate condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH.
Propecia and Male Pattern Baldness
Propecia has been found to help slow, halt, or even reverse mild to moderate hair loss in men with male pattern baldness. A five-year study found that 48% percent of men treated with Propecia at a dose of 1 mg per day experienced visible hair re-growth, and 42% experienced no further hair loss. Propecia is a drug that must be taken long term to treat male pattern baldness. If a man stops taking it, the hair that has been re-grown or maintained is lost within a year of cessation of the drug. While Propecia works on both the hairline and the crown area of the head, it appears to be most effective on the crown area.
How Does Propecia Work?
The hormone DHT is known to cause male pattern baldness. The DHT located in a man’s scalp gradually causes hair follicles to shrink, with the result being a reduction in the amount of hair grown. Propecia essentially blocks the conversion of testosterone to DHT. With less DHT, hair follicles that have shrunken because of DHT generally grow back to a more normal size, with the result being increased hair growth.
In the scalp, skin, and prostate, testosterone is converted into a form of DHT by an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase. Propecia inhibits one type of 5-alpha-reductase, preventing testosterone from being converted to DHT. The result is a decrease in serum DHT levels by 65 to 70%.
How Long Does Propecia Take to Work?
If you are considering taking Propecia for male pattern baldness and have never taken it before, look at Propecia as a long-term treatment and count on up to a year before you notice a difference. It may not take that long, but in some cases it does. As soon as the first day of taking Propecia, production of DHT in the scalp starts being blocked. Within three to six months, users generally notice a decline in the rate of hair loss. Hair may start growing back after nine months of taking Propecia, but doctors recommend waiting a full year before evaluating how well the treatment works.
How Effective is Propecia?
Studies conducted by the FDA found that 90% of men using Propecia notice results of some kind. Some men indeed start growing hair again. Others may not grow hair, but may notice a slowing in their rate of hair loss. Male pattern baldness at the hairline and on top of the head is most likely to be positively affected by use of Propecia. In general, however, the effects are not as noticeable on the sides of the head or at the temples.
Side Effects and Drug Interactions with Propecia
The following, less serious side effects have been reported with Propecia:
- Loss of libido, impotence, or trouble achieving orgasm
- Abnormal ejaculation
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Skin rash
- Swelling of the hands or feet
- Swelling or tenderness of breasts
In some men, the sexual side effects of Propecia can continue after the medication is discontinued. The following side effects are rare, but are serious, and require immediate medical attention:
- Allergic reaction, with signs including hives; swelling of face, lips, tongue, or throat; or difficulty breathing
- Changes in breast tissue, such as lumps, pain, discharge or other changes. These can be signs of male breast cancer
The following drugs are known to interact with Propecia. Men should notify their doctor if they are taking any of the following medications: Adderall, Ambien, Aspirin (low strength), Avodart, Crestor, Cymbalta, Fish oil, Ibuprofen, Lamictal, Lipitor, Lisinopril, Nexium, Simvastatin, Singulair, Trazodone, Viagra, Wellbutrin, Xanax, Zoloft, Zyrtec.
Propecia Dosage Information
The recommended dosage for Propecia is 1 mg taken once daily. There have been studies showing that a dosage smaller than 1 mg may be effective in treating male pattern baldness, but the FDA has ruled that the 1 mg dosage is more effective than a 0.2 mg dosage without increased risk. Another study concluded that a very low dose of Propecia (0.01 mg per day) was ineffective in treating hair loss. Dosages other than 1 mg are not available.
Who Should Not Take Propecia?
Women and children should not take Propecia due to the risks of a very specific type of birth defect linked to its active ingredient. In fact, a woman should not handle Propecia if she is pregnant or could become pregnant, because it can be absorbed through the skin.
Men who have had an allergic reaction to Finasteride, the active ingredient in Propecia, or to a medication called Avodart (Dutasteride) should discuss the safety of using Propecia with their doctor.
Propecia Versus Other Hair Loss Drugs
Rogaine (Minoxidil) is another over-the-counter drug that is used for treating hair loss. It appears to make the hair shafts thicker, and increase the number of hair follicles. Propecia works in a different way, by affecting male hormones that cause male pattern baldness. Both drugs may take months to produce a noticeable effect. Unlike with Propecia, users of Rogaine sometimes notice new hair growth that is thinner and shorter than the previous hair. With either drug, hair loss resumes when the drug is discontinued. Side effects of Rogaine include itching, skin irritation, and dandruff.
Propecia is a prescription drug and must be obtained through a physician or through an online facilitator with U.S.-licensed physicians and pharmacists on staff. As with many popular “lifestyle” drugs, the internet is rife with purported sellers of Propecia. Choosing an online source other than a trusted online facilitator to obtain Propecia is risky, with the very real possibility of receiving nothing at all, or a counterfeit version of the drug that could be ineffective or dangerous.
If you are interested in trying Propecia for male pattern baldness, consider an online facilitator like AccessRx.com, a trusted site that contracts with U.S.-licensed physicians and pharmacists to safely dispense Propecia to men for whom it is indicated. AccessRx.com has a lengthy reputation of providing genuine, FDA-approved medications like Propecia at competitive prices, quickly and discreetly.