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Prostate drug may soon be approved for hair growth

proscar March 21, 1997
Web posted at: 3:50 p.m. EST (2050 GMT)

From Corespondent Dan Rutz

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A drug used to treat men's enlarged prostates may soon become the first pill approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for hair growth.

Pharmaceutical company Merck is hoping to gain approval of what would become the second scientifically proven treatment for hair loss.

The drug, known as finasteride, or Proscar, interferes with the male hormones responsible for enlarged prostates and the most common forms of baldness.

To list and advertise finasteride as a legitimate hair loss treatment, Merck must prove that it works. In more than four years of testing of 2,000 men, nearly half have reported a noticeable gain in new hair growth.


"You're probably going to have to wait six months before you see a change as far as growing hair," said Dr. William Cox, one of many doctors offering Proscar to balding patients even though the FDA hasn't approved it -- a legal practice known as off-label prescription. icon (320 K / 14 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

If approved, the drug would be prepared in a smaller dosage than for prostate patients, and renamed Propecia. The experiments have shown that it works just as well at a third of the strength given to prostate patients.

However, some men, especially older patients, reported a decrease in libido while on the drug. Researchers said the side effect is not as common in younger patients, who were the ones most likely to gain hair with the new treatment.


Minoxidil, a topical solution for baldness, is currently the only FDA approved treatment for hair growth. Researchers have cautioned that Propecia is not likely to show dramatic results.

Barber Troy Satterfield has taken the drug for five months and has noticed some new growth.

"I definitely had a noticeable difference in the back of my crown area," Satterfield said.


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