What is Propecia?


There are a combination of genetic (hereditary) and hormonal factors that can cause androgenetic alopecia or male pattern baldness in many men of various ages. Propecia had been introduced as a hair loss solution Merck & Co. back in 1997. The primary ingredient in Propecia is a synthetic compound called finasteride, which the pharmaceutical company that developed back in 1992. Back then, it was being marketed as Proscar and was being used for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), until it was discovered that taking the drug would result in an unexpected side effect.

Is Propecia (Finasteride) Effective?

Back in 1997, Merck & Co. had been conducting trials on men suffering from BPH. During those trials, it had been observed that men who were taking Proscar ended up experiencing the fascinating side effect of unexpected hair growth. While the FDA had already approved Proscar by then, Merck decided to find a way that would make it possible to use finasteride for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia or male pattern baldness. Eventually, Merck ended up dose the dosage of finasteride from 5 mg to 1 mg and FDA approved the new drug that had been named Propecia. Merck’s Propecia became the first oral drug in history that the FDA had approved for the treatment of male pattern baldness, based on the fact that it had proven to be effectiveness in most men during trials.

According to studies, 90% of men who took finasteride for five years either experienced progressive hair growth or were no longer suffering from hair loss. In another study, it was reported that by the time men had regularly taken Propecia for 5 years, they had on average gained up to 277 hairs over each one-inch circle on their heads. Not only did they gain hairs, these hairs had apparently been considerably larger. Yet another study reported that taking Propecia for up to 5 years may increase hair weight by over 30% [1]. Several controlled clinical trials have also proven that finasteride is equally effective in treating the loss of hair in the front of the scalp and promoting the growth of new hair in that area[2].

How Does Propecia (Finasteride) Work?

The reason that finasteride is an effective solution for male pattern baldness is because it inhibits Type II 5-alpha-reductace. This enzyme is responsible for converting testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is a relatively more potent androgen. A 1 milligram dose of finasteride that each Propecia tablet contains is capable of effectively lowering DHT levels by up to 60%, as long as it is taken every day.

DHT is responsible for causing the miniaturization of susceptible hair follicles, which means that they begin shrinking in size, becoming shorter and thinner. Consequently, instead of producing normal pigmented hair, these affected follicles begin producing, small, unpigmented vellus hair. The anagen phase of the affected follicles is also shortened, which means that they are not able to grow. As a result, hairs on the head begin getting finer and shorter over the course of time, until they vanish completely, leaving bald patches on the head.

Since finasteride effectively reduces the levels of DHT by up to 60%, a majority of the men who have taken Propecia have experienced a decline in the progression of hair loss. A large number of these men have also experienced a considerable increase in their hair thickness and volume. Lowering DHT levels is currently one of the only medically proven methods of effectively preventing hair loss and treating male pattern baldness.

How To Take Propecia (Finasteride)?

Before a man begins taking Propecia, it is recommended that they read the leaflet that comes with it since it has useful information from the manufacturer printed on it.

The recommended dose of Propecia is a single tablet every day, which is equivalent to taking 1 milligram of finasteride. It will be ideal if the tablet is taken at the same time every day and for best results, the tablet should be taken regularly without any gaps in between. In the case of forgetting to take the pill at the usual time, there is no harm in taking the tablet at any time during the day. However, the daily dose of Propecia should not exceed more than a single tablet or 1 mg, even if a dose is missed.

It must be obvious, but the tablet should be taken whole with a glass of water. It is not necessary to take Propecia with food.

In order to accurately judge whether or not Propecia is proving to be effective, it should at least be taken for at least 1 year or longer so that the drug may exercise its full effect. Some men may continue experiencing hair loss during the first 6 months that they take Propecia, but this is normal. It takes at least a year for the drug to active the growth of new hair and the hair loss that had been occurring prior to taking the drug may continue progressing up to one year even when taking this drug.

What Are The Side Effects Of Propecia (Finasteride)?

Back in 2012, the FDA ordered Merck to change the labels of both Proscar and Propecia after men taking either of two drugs reported experiencing certain sexual side effects. The new label that Propecia comes with warns users that the prolonged use of Propecia may lead to a decline in libido, orgasms and the quality of semen. However, the FDA themselves have stated that they had not managed to establish clear casual links that these side effects are indeed the direct result of taking Propecia or that they are indeed extremely prevalent. Nonetheless, men with thinning hairlines are advised to use Propecia their own discretion.

The Bottom Line

The fact of the matter remains that the FDA has not deemed Propecia ineffective or unsuitable for the treatment of male pattern baldness because that is certainly not the case. Men with thinning hairlines have been using Propecia for nineteen years now, ever since the FDA had approved its use for this purpose, and the drug still holds that status. Even today, Propecia is the leading and perhaps the only effectively proven and FDA approved oral drug that is capable of not only preventing androgenetic alopecia or male pattern baldness, but also promoting the growth of new, better hair.