Propecia, with its active ingredient Finasteride, is without a doubt one of the biggest breakthroughs in hair loss research in recent times. Whereas solutions such as Rogaine (active ingredient Minoxidil) achieve hugely variable and often questionable results, Propecia has certainly helped many men around the world to slow, or even stop the progress of their hair loss.
Several studies have been conducted to look at whether Propecia works for hair loss in men. One study looked at using it in men for male pattern baldness with hair loss at the very top of the head. At the beginning, the men who took Propecia grew new hair, while the men who took the placebo continued to lose hair. After about a year, the increase in new hair growth stopped for the men on Propecia, and these men started to slowly lose their hair again. However, the hair loss was much slower for the men taking Propecia than for the men who were taking the placebo.
After taking Propecia for five years, 48 percent of men had increased hair growth, 42 percent had no change (the hair loss had stopped), and 10 percent had lost hair. For the men who were taking the placebo, 75 percent had lost hair after five years. Also, once men stopped taking Propecia, the beneficial effects for hair loss wore off over one year.
Propecia has also been shown to be effective in treating male pattern baldness with hair loss on the front and center of the head. However, the drug has never been shown to work for hair loss near the temples.
So whats the problem with Propecia?
With overwhelming evidence to confirm the effectiveness of Propecia (Finasteride), one might ask why every man isn’t popping the pill. Unfortunately, there are drawbacks. You see, whether we like it or not, losing ones hair (in most cases) is a perfectly natural consequence of the ageing process, depending of course on the genes we inherited. To intervene in such a process is, as with all medications, forcing the body to behave in a way that it against its will. Often we can get away with such intervention, however many men experience side effects as a result of taking Propecia.
According to ScienceDaily.com, the side effects can be severe. As they put it:
Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine, in collaboration with colleagues at Lahey Clinic and from Denmark and Germany, have found that 5a-reductase inhibitors (5a-RIs), while improving urinary symptoms in patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and possible hair loss prevention, produces significant adverse effects in some individuals including loss of libido, erectile dysfunction (ED), ejaculatory dysfunction and potential depression. These findings, which currently appear on-line in Journal of Sexual Medicine, suggest that extreme caution should be exercised prior to prescribing 5a-RIs therapy to patients for hair growth or for BPH symptoms.
According to the researchers, the adverse side effects of 5a-RIs on sexual function, gynecomastia and the impact on the overall health have received minimal attention. However, in some patients, these side effects are persistent with regard to sexual function and with an emotional toll including decreased quality of life.
“The potential widespread use of 5a-RIs for treatment of BPH, prostate cancer and male pattern hair loss may produce undesirable adverse side effects on overall health and in particular, vascular health and sexual function in a subgroup of susceptible patients, ” said lead author Abdulmaged M. Traish, MBA, PhD, a professor of biochemistry and professor of Urology at BUSM. “Furthermore, treatment of hair loss, a benign condition with 5a-RIs may produce persistent side effects in a number of young patients,” he added
What is the likelihood of experiencing side effects from Propecia?
This, of course, is the million dollar question. It is common knowledge that Propecia can cause several unpleasant side effects, most notably erectile dysfunction, but what proportion of men actually have this problem, and how many get away with no side effects at all?
As with all drugs, some people will experience side effects and some will not. Our own experience through discussions with our clients, would indicate at least a third of people taking Propecia experienced undesirable side effects to some degree, however basing our assumptions on just our own clients is unlikely to provide an accurate picture, as we only meet those people who remain dissatisfied with other solutions. The real figure is likely to be less than a third of men taking the drug.
A viable, independent clinical trial has never been conducted to assess the proportion of men who experience side effects, only trials to analyse the side effects themselves have taken place. The manufacturer (Merck) has no real incentive to conduct such a trial, and unless an independent body does so, such a trial is unlikely to take place.
Should you still take Propecia?
HIS will stop short of recommending a drug that we do not yet fully understand. What is clear, however, is that Propecia is used successfully by many thousands of men around the world to slow or prevent hair loss. Only you can assess for yourself whether or not the potential side effects of Propecia are too significant.
This is a difficult decision, given that many men do not experience any side effects at all. On the plus side, most people agree that any side effects are not permanent, and will cease shortly after the course of treatment is halted.
We believe that the majority of people considering treatments such as a hair transplant, MHT or hair systems have tried Propecia at some point. Perhaps if any side effects are only temporary, it may be worth trying Propecia for a few months (we’d suggest at least six) to see how it performs. If side effects are experienced, we’d certainly recommend you stop taking Propecia right away.
A final note. Although Propecia can be bought online with a digital prescription, we still recommend consulting a suitably qualified medical practitioner prior to taking Propecia, Proscar or any other drug containing Finasteride.