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Reviewed by Dr Yasmin Aghajan, MD
Information last reviewed 07/20/19
Finasteride, also known by the brand name Propecia, belongs to a class of drugs known as testosterone 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors. Finasteride is a prescription treatment used to treat hair loss in men (male pattern baldness). Finasteride is also used to treat enlarged prostate. Finasteride is not intended for use in women and children, although in certain circumstances, it may be recommended by a doctor.
Finasteride is a type of medication known as a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor. 5-alpha-reductase is the enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (a hormone that stimulates the development of male characteristics, an androgen). Too much dihydrotestosterone has shown to be implicated in benign prostatic hyperplasia, prostate cancer and male-pattern baldness. As such, the 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor that Finasteride contains blocks the action of this enzyme by preventing testosterone from breaking down into dihydrotestosterone, which increases the levels of testosterone and improves hair growth.
Finasteride tablets contain the active ingredient finasteride at a concentration of 1mg. Finasteride is a 5-alpha-reductase inibitor which increases the levels of testosterone, promoting hair growth.
Finasteride also contains the following inactive ingredients: lactose monohydrate, microcrystalline cellulose, pregelatinized starch, sodium starch glycolate, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, hydroxypropyl cellulose LF, titanium dioxide, magnesium stearate, talc, docusate sodium, yellow ferric oxide, and red ferric oxide.
Finasteride is not known to cause any form of severe allergic reactions that might cause trouble breathing, dizziness, itching/swelling, or rashes. If you do notice these after taking the medication please seek immediate medical attention. On the other hand, Finasteride does contain lactose monohydrate which can cause some uncomfortable symptoms in anyone with severe lactose intolerance.
Finasteride is a tablet for long-term use and should be taken continuously for at least three to six months in order to start seeing the full effects. Take Finasteride tablet orally (by mouth) with a glass of water, with or without food. The recommended dosage is one tablet (1mg) taken once daily, or otherwise as prescribed by your doctor. For optimal effect, take this medication regularly and preferably at the same time each day. It may take up to 3 months for the effects to show. If you stop taking Finasteride, your hair loss symptoms may come back, possibly within 12 months.
Important: Before taking Finasteride, inform your doctor about your medical history, especially if you have had liver disease, prostate cancer, infections, urinary problems.
The recommended dosage of Finasteride is a single 1mg tablet, taken once a day, at approximately the same time. In some situations, a doctor may prescribe a different dose. You should always follow the instructions of the prescribing physician when taking any medication.
Get immediate medical help if you experience signs of an allergic reaction to Finasteride: skin rash (which may be itchy), swelling of your face, lips, tongue, throat; difficulty breathing.
Possible side effects:
Talk to your doctor immediately if any of the following serious side effects occur:
Finasteride is contraindicated in pregnant or potentially pregnant women as Finasteride may cause abnormalities of the external genitalia of a male fetus. As such, pregnant or potentially pregnant women should not even handle crushed or broken Finasteride tablets because there is a possibility of absorption of finasteride.
Finasteride does not have any known interactions with other medications. In the clinical studies where Finasteride 1 mg or higher was used with other drugs, there was no evidence of clinically significant interactions with the other medications.
Finasteride versus Prostaglandin Analogues (Latanoprost and Bimatoprost)
Finasteride is the most commonly prescribed medication for the treatment of male pattern baldness (MPB). Finasteride provides an improvement in hair count and thickness. Results are typically notable in 6 months to 1 year with Finasteride 1 mg once a day. Finasteride is not approved for women with hair loss because it causes birth defects in male embryos.
Prostaglandin Analogues are medications used to treat ocular hypertension and glaucoma. However, these medications (Latanoprost and Bimatoprost) have been shown to increase hair growth. In clinical studies, Latanoprost significantly increased hair density. There was some evidence to suggest that this medication might also promote pigmentation of the hair.
Other treatment options for MPB include laser treatment, anti-androgens, Minoxidil (Rogaine), and surgical treatment. Other treatments are under investigation.
There have been some reports linking Finasteride to male breast cancer. The Medicines and Health care products Registry Agency (MHRA) recently investigated these reports. There was no significant evidence to suggest causation of breast cancer with Finasteride. However, further investigation is warranted. If you are taking Finasteride and have any symptoms suggestive of breast pathology - nipple discharge, breast pain or swelling), you should see your doctor for evaluation.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about the sexual side effects of Finasteride persisting even after stopping the medication. This warning was based on approximately 100 reports that the FDA received over a period of 20 years. There is no evidence that Finasteride causes permanent sexual dysfunction, and irreversible side effects from taking Finasteride are rare. Clinical studies show that about 4% to 6% of men who take Finasteride experience these side effects, and those effects were usually reversible.
There have not been any cases with Finasteride overdose resulting in clinically significant toxicity. Doses of up to 80 mg daily (well above the prescribed dose of 1 mg or 5 mg daily) for a period of 3 months have been studied without any significant reactions.
Hair growth with Finasteride is not immediate. It typically takes three to four months, sometimes up to six months, before results are notable. It can take as long as nine months to see the full effects of treatment with Finasteride.
There have been few small clinical trials completed looking at the combination of Finasteride and Minoxidil. The results have been promising, showing the combination therapy to be effective. However, it was not determined whether the combination was more effective compared to Finasteride alone. The findings did suggest, however, that the combined treatment produced an additive hypertichotic effect, meaning that the hair growth appeared thicker.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. You and your physician will determine if and how you should take any medication prescribed to you following a medical consultation.
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