Finasteride is a prescription medication that can be used to treat male pattern hair loss (androgenic alopecia), i.e., the baldness that affects up to 80 percent of men at some stage during their adult life. Several long-term trials have demonstarted that Finasteride is a promising treatment, with success rates of up to 85 percent for stopping hair loss. In 65 percent of men, it even can induce hair to regrow. Merck & Co. first manufactured and sold Finasteride under the proprietary brand name Propecia.
The drug is one of only a couple of U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved treatments for male pattern baldness. It is generally well-tolerated in long-term use. For the past twenty-odd years, finasteride has helped countless men protect their hairline. Since Merck’s drug patent has expired, generic versions of Finasteride are inexpensive and widely available.
Treatment of male-pattern hair loss is the most common use of Finasteride by far, which has gained the drug a firm place among the top 100 FDA-approved, prescribed medications.
About 95 percent of hair loss in men is caused by male-pattern baldness. On rare occasions, hair loss may be triggered by external stress, or autoimmune conditions such as alopecia areata. If you suffer from hair loss, talk to a dermatologist or other healthcare professional to figure out whether it’s male-pattern hair loss or another condition that is causing you to lose hair.
The same hormonal process that causes balding, can also lead to an enlarged prostate, which can then cause urinary issues. Many men aged 50 and older suffer from this problem. The hormonal process in question is the excessive transformation of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which mostly happens in the scalp’s hair follicles and the prostate gland. The effects of DHT include shrinking hair follicles and subsequent hair loss, and swelling of the prostate gland.
Just as Finasteride successfully stops DHT production in the scalp and thereby protects hair from falling out, it also works well for inhibiting DHT’s adverse effect on the prostate gland. In fact, Finasteride’s use against benign prostatic hyperplasia predates its application for treating male-pattern hair loss. Merck began marketing Finasteride for treating prostate enlargement under the brand name Proscar in 1992 — Propecia followed five years later. The essential difference between Propecia and Proscar is the dosage, 1mg vs. 5mg, respectively. Today, 5mg Finasteride is also available in generic form.
Due to its effects on prostate health, Finasteride has also been clinically tested and proven to prevent prostate cancer. A large study by the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) that tracked nearly 20,000 Finasteride users during 1993-2000 showed an impressive 25 percent decrease in the risk of prostate cancer.
The above-discussed uses are the most popular applications of Finasteride, but the drug can be useful for other things as well and it can also benefit women, not just men.
Finasteride unfortunately, doesn’t help treat female-pattern hair loss – which affects around 50 percent of women age 65 years and older, and can affect younger women as well. It has proven useful however, in the treatment of female hirsutism, which is a condition causing unwated hair growth on the face or body. Finasteride is available as a topical cream to treat hirsutism.
Finasteride may also be prescribed in conjunction with estrogen in transgender women receiving hormone replacemetn therapy.
Since Finasteride is a prescription drug, your doctor will determine the appropriate dose of Finasteride for you. Usually, 1 mg daily is prescribed for hair loss and 5 mg daily for an enlarged prostate or in cancer prevention.
To suppress hirsutism in women, the dosage of prescribed Finasteride varies depending on severity, and whether oral medication or a topical cream is used. Studies have shown that taking 2.5mg of Finasteride every three days is effective against hirsutism.
Remember, Finasteride is a prescription drug. Follow your doctor’s guidance on when and how to take Finasteride.