Finasteride, the active ingredient in Propecia, has had a remarkable history, today it's undoubted efficacy is undermined by troubling stories of side-effects. We take a look.
Propecia has taken an unlikely path to reach the shelves of pharmacies around the world. Nobody set out to identify the chemical cause of pattern hair loss. Like so many other significant discoveries the initial find went almost unnoticed.
In 1974 the magnificently named Julianne Imperato-McGinley, from the Cornell Medical College in New York, attended a conference about birth defects. She had been following a group of children growing up in the Caribbean, all the children had been born sexually ambiguous and after at first being brought up as girls had developed small male genitalia. They would go on to develop other masculine features during and after puberty. Once mature the group were noted to have small under developed prostrates and, wait for it, did not experience any hair loss. It says something about the appetite of big pharmaceuticals that it was the prostrate thing that caught the eye of a top man at Merck. He was interested in the fact that Imperato-McGinley's work had identified a genetic mutation that the whole group shared, it resulted in a deficiency of an enzyme called 5a-reductase and a male hormone dihydrotestoserone, better known in hair loss circles as DHT. Dr. Vagelos stared at an opportunity to fix hair loss and decided, in his position as research chief, to set out on the path to develop a drug for older men to control their prostrate.
It would take until 1992 for Merck, who had by now developed the key ingredient called Finasteride, to get approval their prostrate medicine under the name Proscar following successful trials.
Hair Loss Hope
Fortunately for the many men who have come to rely on it, the possibilities for Finasteride in the treatment of hair loss had not gone completely unnoticed. Just five short years later in 1997 they would get FDA approval for a new drug, based on Finasteride, to treat pattern baldness. Propecia had arrived.
It was greeted with cautious optimism, the promise was not a swift return to a full head of hair after all. In fact it's basic offer was to prevent further loss, more than satisfactory for many of course. These days it is a fairly ubiquitous brand and it's popularity is reflected in annual sales of around $75M in 2014. It does not work for everyone however, though for a small percentage it can even encourage new growth. For many it does nothing at all, and you have to take it for a while to be certain. If it does work for you then it is a lifetime commitment, or for as long as you want to keep your hair at least. Stop taking the drug and the effect wears off very quickly, allowing your hair loss to progress.
There are a fairly eye-popping list of potential side-effects associated with taking Propecia. The most widely regarded being sexual dysfunction... a problem that does not go away simply because you have stopped taking the drug either. In early 2016 no less than 1385 customers have taken legal action against Merck for what they were describing as persistent sexual effects following cessation of treatment with Finasteride.
HIS Hair Clinic
Here at HIS we wait patiently, along with 50% of all men and women out there, for the miracle cure. But nobody is holding their breath. If you want to do something about your hair loss now then a free consultation with one of our friendly team of experts will outline the options open to you in your particular circumstances. Simply complete the contact form on the side of this page or click here
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Recognized Side Effects