For men who are experiencing hair loss, one of the more popular treatments worth considering is called Finasteride. This substance was a real revolution, because it was - and currently still is- the first real effective treatment of hair loss. This anti-androgen is marketed as Proscar, Propecia, Fincar, Finpecia, Finax, Finast, Finara and Prosteride. The most widely used version of the anti-androgen is Propecia.
Propecia is an anti-androgen which works by inhibiting an enzyme that is called 5-alpha reductase. 5-alpha reductase converts testosterone into a hormone dihydrotesterone. The drug was initially approved for marketing in 1992 as a treatment mainly used for prostate enlargement, and was called Proscar at the time. Later a study demonstrated hair regrowth in male pattern hair loss, which prompted the FDA to approve Finasteride in 1997 as a male pattern hair loss treatment.
Proscar and Propecia are drug trade names manufactured and sold by Merck & Co. In Proscar 5mg of substance are included, while Propecia contains only 1 milligram of Finasteride. The patent on Propecia owned by Merck expired 2006, allowing the FDA and other regulatory agencies in the world to approve generic formulations for Finasteride which are available in 5mg tablets.
Propecia works by interfering with the process of androgenetic hair loss which usually follows this process:
- DHT causes miniaturization of robust terminal hairs.
- DHT is produced by an enzyme known as 5-alpha-reductase (occuring in cells of the hair follicle) by converting testosterone into DHT.
- Too much DHT results in fine, soft vellus hairs that provide limited scalp coverage.
- Also with DHT the growth phase gradually shortens until these hairs are lost permanently.
Propecia inhibits the formation of DHT and over a period of several months reduces levels of DHT sufficiently to minimize its effects on the hair follicle. Propecia shows a 29-68 % success rate, but the treatment is only effective as long as the treatment is ongoing. As soon as therapy is ceased, the hair that is gained or maintained will be lost within a period of six to twelve months. Though Propecia has appeared to work more successfully in the crown area, it also works well along the hairline.
As with any drug, finasteride can cause side effects to a minority of users. The clinical trials reported a 2% incidence of varying side effects but these tended to lessen as the body adjusted to the drug over a period of months. Although Propecia or cheaper generic versions are easily obtained on the internet it is strongly recommended that you seek the advice of your doctor, at least in the first instance. Be aware of faked cheap alternatives - many of the drugs available over the internet are simply tablets without any active ingredient!
Finasteride is generally not indicated by use for women, as Finasteride in Propecia has been known to cause birth defects in unborn babies, and has therefore been placed in the FDA’s Pregnancy Category X. As long as the tablets are not swallowed, they should not be harmful to pregnant women and their unborn babies, but women should avoid the pills whenever possible, especially when crushed or broken. Many professional sports have had to ban Finasteride as it can be used to mask the abuse of steroids.