Propecia is a drug manufactured by Merck and approved for use in Australia by the FDA in 1997. It is used in the treatment of hair-loss for men (male pattern baldness). The active ingredient is Finasteride.
Propecia works in men by inhibiting the production of substance called DHT (dihydrotestosterone). DHT is a natural by-product of the conversion of testosterone in the body. DHT is important in the development of male characteristics such as facial hair. It is implicated in hair-loss by preventing nutrients such as proteins, vitamins and minerals from nourishing the hair follicles. This in turn causes the follicles to shrink. This causes thinning hair and can lead to male baldness.
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The recommended dosage of Propecia is 1mg once daily. Clinical studies have demonstrated that it provides around 30% improvement in men suffering from hair-loss. The hair that grows is also natural hair unlike other alternatives in which the hair is much thinner. Reports have suggested that one works best on the back of the scalp or the vertex.
To experience the full benefits of Propecia – it should be taken daily for three months or more. In the studies – the men had been taking the drug for at least 12 months. Indeed it is recommended that the drug should be taken on a long term basis to get the most out of it. However if after taking the drug for 12 months and not much progress is seen, it is unlikely continued use will lead to any benefits.
Men should not take the drug if they are suffering from health conditions such as liver disease, bladder muscle problems, difficulty urinating and prostate cancer. The drug may also increase the risk of getting prostate cancer. This is because in some tests for prostate cancer it may actually interfere with tests thus delaying a proper diagnosis until later.
Some studies have suggested a possible connection between taking the drug and mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
Side-effects such as sexual dysfunction – reduced libido and erectile dysfunction have been reported and documented. Although Merck have stated that the effects only last as long as the drug is being taken.
Women and children should not take drug. Propecia can cause birth defects to the baby in pregnant women. Although there is a coating on the drug women and children should not handle it because it can be absorbed through the skin if the coating is worn off.
The active ingredient Finasteride is also used in the treatment of enlarged prostate gland (benign prostatic hyperplasia), so its use is not just for the treatment of hair-loss.