What is Finasteride Used for?

Finasteride treats male pattern hair loss and a range of prostate problems

What are common uses of Finasteride?

Male Pattern Hair Loss

Finasteride is a prescription medication that can be used to cure male pattern hair loss (androgenic alopecia), i.e., the baldness that affects up to 80 percent of men at some stage during their later adult life. Several long-term trials have shown that Finasteride is a promising remedy for male hair loss, with success rates of up to 85 percent for stopping balding. 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 and generally is well-tolerated in long-term use. For the past twenty-odd years has helped countless men to protect their hairline. Since Merck’s drug patent has expired by now, generic Finasteride versions are widely available today. 

 

Treating male pattern hair loss is the most popular use of Finasteride by far and it has gained the drug a firm place among the Top 100 FDA approved prescription drugs. 

 

About 95 percent of hair loss in men is caused by male pattern baldness. On rare occasions, hair loss may be triggered by autoimmune conditions, such as alopecia areata, or external stress factors. 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 causes you to lose hair. 

 

Enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia)

The same hormone process that causes balding can with growing age also enlarge the prostate which then causes uncomfortable urinary issues, like blocking the bladder’s urine flow. Many men aged 50 and older suffer from this problem. The hormone 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 side effect of this DHT transformation are 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 only followed five years later. The essential difference between a pill of Propecia and Proscar is the dosage, 1mg vs. 5mg, respectively. Today, 5mg Finasteride is also available as generic versions.    

 

Prostate cancer prevention

Due to its effects on prostate health, Finasteride has also been clinically tested and proven as a medication for prostate cancer prevention. A large study by the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) that tracked nearly 20,000 Finasteride users during 1993-2000 showed a significant 25 percent decrease in the risk of prostate cancer.

 

Other uses of Finasteride

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 against female pattern hair loss – which affects around 50 percent of women of 65 years and older and sometimes also younger women. However, it has proven useful against another hair problem troubling some women: hirsutism, i.e., unwanted hair growth in places where men typically grow hair but not women. A common form is facial hirsutism. Finasteride is available as topical creams to treat this condition.

 

Finasteride also can be used in hormone replacement therapy of transgender women, often combined with estrogen. Finasteride’s antiandrogenic effects aid the therapy.

 

What amount of Finasteride should you take?

Since Finasteride is a prescription drug, your doctor will tell you how much Finasteride to take when giving you the prescription. The amount may vary, depending on the severity of your condition, intended treatment duration and concerns about potential side effects. 

 

That said, below is an overview of common Finasteride dosages:

 

For male pattern hair loss, the commonly prescribed dose is 1mg once a day taken orally. This equates to 1 tablet of Propecia or a similar generic version of Finasteride.

 

For treating enlarged prostate gland (benign prostatic hyperplasia), doctors usually prescribe 5mg once a day. This is also taken orally and equals 1 pill of Proscar or generic alternative.

 

For prostate cancer prevention the usual dosage for adult men is 5mg once a day. 

 

To suppress hirsutism in women, the dosage of prescribed Finasteride varies depending on the severity of the case and whether oral medication or a topical cream is used. Studies have shown that taking 2.5mg of Finasteride every three days already is effective against hirsutism. 

 

Remember: Finasteride is a prescription drug. It is recommended to follow your doctor’s guidance on when and how to take Finasteride.

 

References

  1. McClellan, Karen J., and Anthony Markham. “Finasteride.” Drugs, vol. 57, no. 1, 1999, pp. 111–126, https://doi.org/10.2165/00003495-199957010-00014.
  2. James Tacklind et al (2010). Finasteride for benign prostatic hyperplasia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Retrieved November 17, 2019, from https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD006015.pub3/full
  3. “10-Year Finasteride Study: First to Investigate Long-Term Effects and Safety.” Bernstein Medical - Center for Hair Restoration, 20 Aug. 2012, www.bernsteinmedical.com/research/10-year-finasteride-study-first-to-investigate-long-term-effects-and-safety/. Accessed 25 Nov. 2019.
  4. Adil, Areej, and Marshall Godwin. “The Effectiveness of Treatments for Androgenetic Alopecia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, vol. 77, no. 1, 2017, pp. 136-141.e5, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28396101, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2017.02.054. Accessed 25 Nov. 2019.

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