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Bernstein Medical - Center for Hair Restoration
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Hair Restoration Answers

Should I Use Multiple Hair Loss Medications, Such as Both Avodart and Propecia?

Q: I’m 52 years old and have been taking Propecia (finasteride) for two years. It seems to maintain the status quo with no apparent regrowth. I am considering adding a dose of Avodart (dutasteride) once a week in conjunction with the daily Propecia. My question is twofold: (1) Since dutasteride blocks production of both enzymes (type I and II) that produce DHT from testosterone, is it redundant to take the finasteride that only blocks the type I enzyme? — Y.B., Orlando, Florida

A: It is redundant to take both.

However, you may not be taking the optimal dose of dutasteride which seems to be at least 0.5mg a day for hair loss.

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Multiple Hair Loss Medications: Do You Recommend Stopping One if No Improvement?

Q: If I use the dutasteride for one year and do not see a noticeable improvement can I quit the Avodart, continue the daily dose of Propecia and expect to retain the same “holding pattern” I have now?

A: If Avodart is helping to maintain the status quo then you can expect to lose some hair, i.e. return to where you would have been if you had used finasteride alone.

Read more about Hair Loss Medication

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Which is More Effective: Rogaine or Propecia?

Q: Will Propecia and Minoxidil reverse some of the miniaturization going on with someone with thinning hair? If I do need a hair transplant will I have to stay on these medications? — C.C., — Fairfield County, Connecticut

A: Yes, both minoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Propecia, Proscar) affect the miniaturization of the hair follicles and help restore the shrunken follicles to cosmetically viable hair.

Minoxidil works by directly simulating miniaturized follicles to grow, whereas finasteride blocks DHT, the hormone that causes hair to miniaturize and eventually fall out.

Finasteride is much more effective than minoxidil in preventing or reversing the miniaturization process and it is so much more convenient to use that we generally suggest finasteride after a hair transplant procedure, but rarely recommend minoxidil.

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Do You Recommend Loniten as Hair Loss Medication?

Q: Is Loniten good for treating hair loss? — N.V., East Hills, N.Y.

A: Loniten (oral minoxidil) is not useful for treating hair loss. The reason is that it stimulates hair growth all over the body (hypertrichosis) and has a number of serious side effects.

Even when used to treat blood pressure, for which it is FDA approved, it is a medication reserved only for severe hypertension, used after at least three other types of blood pressure medications have been tried and are unsuccessful.

In addition to increased body and facial hair growth, it can cause fluid retention and heart disease. When used topically (topical generic minoxidil or Rogaine) the medication generally does not cause any significant problems other than local skin irritation and occasionally increased facial hair (which can be real nuisance for women).

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Do You Recommend Avolve Hair Loss Medication?

Q: My friend just came back from Paris and said that his cousin was taking Avolve for hair loss. Can you tell me what that is and is it available in the U.S.? — N.W., Portland, Oregon

A: Avolve is the European trade name for dutasteride 0.5mg made by GlaxoSmithKline for prostate enlargement. In the U.S. dutasteride 0.5mg, under the brand name Avodart, is FDA approved to treat prostate enlargement (BPH). It has not been FDA approved for hair loss.

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Can Hair Transplant Thicken Thinning Hair in Person with Early Hair Loss?

Q: I am 22 and losing my hair all across the top of my head. How can I thicken my hair to its level a few years previously? — I.L., Kentfield, CA

A: If medication, such as finasteride, is successful it can thicken hair by increasing the diameter of the existing hair shafts. Although the cosmetic benefits can be dramatic in a person with significant hair loss, a hair transplant can not restore hair to its original density, since it only moves the existing hair around and does create new hair.

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Why is Propecia Not Stopping My Hair Loss?

Q: I have been on Propecia for a year and my hair loss has not stopped or slowed down. How much longer should I give the drug? Can Propecia speed up hair loss in some patients? — N.V., East Hills, N.Y.

A: If you have not responded to Propecia in one year, it is unlikely that you will.

Finasteride may cause shedding in the first 6 months of treatment, but should not accelerate hair loss long-term. It is most likely that you have progression of your hair loss.

In addition, be sure that you have a correct diagnosis i.e. that you actually have androgenetic alopecia.

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Is Avodart Hair Loss Medication Safe for Male with Early Hair Loss?

Q: My query is prompted by your answer to another query “Is Avodart Safe?” My son, who is in his mid-20s, has been taking Dutasteride for hair loss for about two years now. He had tried Finasteride earlier but without much benefit. Medical supervision regarding Dutasteride is not available in Australia as the drug has not been released here yet. — N.V., Melbourne, Australia

I am concerned by your remarks that there is no biologic model to show the long-term safety of Dutasteride (as opposed to Finasteride). Would you suggest that he goes back to taking Finasteride? We would be grateful for your advice.

A: It is a tough call as I have never met or examined your son, so I can only offer an opinion based on limited information. If you feel your son will be emotionally or socially debilitated by the hair loss, then I think that it may be worth the risk (if there is any) of taking the medication; otherwise, I would use Finasteride.

Please keep in mind that you don’t need to make the final decision now. You may want to defer the decision until he is 28 or so, at time when he is more mature. It is a tough call. Please let me know what you decide.

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Is Finpecia a Viable Hair Loss Medication?

Q: A friend of mine is taking Finpecia, is this the same as Propecia? — A.B., St. Louis, Missouri

A: Both Propecia and Finpecia contain the active ingredient Finasteride 1mg. Finpecia is manufactured in India by the company Cipla. It comes in packets of 10. Finpecia contains the same chemical ingredient as Propecia, i.e. 1mg of Finasteride, but it is manufactured differently and it is less expensive.

Indian patent law allows companies in India to make medications that are patented by drug companies in other countries, since Indian law protects only the processes by which drugs are made and not medication itself. Therefore, if an Indian company finds another way to make a drug, it can legally do so.

Cipla has not published any studies showing that their generic Finasteride is identical or as effective as Merck’s original product in treating hair loss. These alternative processes and drugs are not regulated by the FDA, so there is no assurance that the medication manufactured in India has the same biologic activity or potency as the FDA approved counterpart made in the United States.

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Is Hair Loss Treatment with Avodart Safe?

Q: My friend is taking Avodart, he bought it over the internet. Is it safe to take? — T.G., Denver, Colorado

A: Avodart (dutasteride 0.5mg) was approved by the FDA for the treatment of prostate enlargement in men in 2002. Avodart has not been approved for the treatment of androgenetic hair loss, although physicians can use an approved medication in ways other than for which it was specifically approved. That said, the use of dutasteride certainly requires a doctor’s supervision.

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Was Propecia Originally for Treatment of Prostate Enlargement?

Q: I heard that Propecia was being used originally for shrinking the prostate, is this true? — M.D., New Hyde Park, N.Y.

A: Propecia (finasteride 1mg) is not a prostate medication that was serendipitously noted to have a side effect of re-growing hair, it is a medication that was known all along that it might be able to slow hair loss and/or to grow hair.

Although finasteride was first approved for the treatment of prostate enlargement, the researchers at Merck knew, at the outset, that there were families whose members were deficient in the 5-alpha reductase Type II enzyme and that the men in these families neither developed prostate disease nor went bald. In addition they had no long-term problems from the lack of this enzyme.

Merck used this natural model to develop a medication that could block the 5-alpha reductase Type II enzyme – the result was finasteride. Because the only approved treatment for symptoms related to prostate enlargement at the time was surgery, Merck developed finasteride as a medical treatment for this condition prior to developing finasteride as a potential treatment for men with male pattern hair loss.

This also meant that Merck would understand the safety profile of finasteride, and have it approved for a medical disease (symptomatic prostate enlargement), before developing it for a cosmetic condition.

The drug was first submitted to the FDA for the treatment of prostate enlargement as Proscar (finasteride 5mg) in 1991 and it was approved for this use in 1992. The drug was submitted for the treatment of men with male pattern hair loss as Propecia (finasteride 1mg) in 1996 and was approved for this use in 1997.

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How is Rogaine for Women Different from Men’s Formula?

Q: What is the difference between Rogaine for men and Rogaine for women? — G.K., Hawthorne, N.Y.

A: Rogaine for men is 5% minoxidil and Rogaine for women is 2%. Another difference is that the 5% solution has propylene glycol in it whereas the 2% is alcohol based. The propylene glycol helps the minoxidil penetrate the skin better and makes the medication more effective. Although both the alcohol and propylene glycol based preparations can irritate the scalp, propylene glycol can cause actual allergic reactions in those who are sensitive.

Propylene glycol is greasier to have on the scalp than the alcohol based formulation. For patients who complain of the greasiness, we advise Minoxidil 5% at bedtime and 2% in the AM.

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Can I Treat Hair Loss Using Rogaine and Propecia Together?

Q Do Rogaine and Propecia work synergistically? — N.W., Chappaqua, N.Y.

A: They are synergistic, since the mechanisms of action are different.

Rogaine directly stimulates hair growth, while Propecia is permissive for hair growth by blocking DHT, the byproduct of testosterone that causes hair to miniaturize and eventually disappear.

The important thing to remember, however, is that for most people, Propecia is far more effective.

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Can Women Use Propecia to Treat Hair Loss and Does Their Age Matter?

Q: I have early thinning on the top of my scalp and I was told to use Propecia, but I heard that is was only for men. What do you think? — T.G., Staten Island, NY

A: Women can’t take Propecia during the child-bearing years because, if ingested, it can cause birth defects in male offspring.

In post-menopausal women, where we see the greatest frequency of hair loss, it doesn’t seem to be effective.

In pre-menopausal women who do not plan to become pregnant or who already have children, we are still cautious about using the medication, since there effectiveness has not been proven and its long-term safety in this population has not been tested.

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Does Hair Transplant Prevent Hair Loss?

Q: How does a hair transplant prevent hair loss? — M.M., White Plains, N.Y.

A: It doesn’t. Surgical hair restoration does just what it says. It restores hair to an area where the hair has been lost (by borrowing it from an area of greater density that is less important cosmetically, such as the back of the scalp).

To prevent, or slow down, further balding one would need to receive treatment with hair loss medication such as finasteride (Propecia).

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What Causes Common Hair Loss or Baldness?

Q: I know that I am going to be bald because my father is bald and I am losing my hair just like him. What actually causes this kind of hair loss? — J.P., Paradise Valley, Arizona

A: Although there are many different causes, the overwhelming number of people that have hair loss have what is referred to as “patterned hair loss” or “androgenetic alopecia.”

In men, it is due to a hormone called DHT, which is a by-product of testosterone produced by the action of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. This enzyme is inhibited by the hair loss medication Propecia. See the causes of hair loss in men page on the Bernstein Medical – Center for Hair Restoration website for more information.

In women, the mechanism is a little bit more complex as another enzyme, aromatase, is involved in the metabolic pathway. See the causes of hair loss in women page on the Bernstein Medical – Center for Hair Restoration website for more information.

We know that the inheritance comes from both the mother’s and father’s side, although the actual genes causing hair loss in men and women have not yet been identified. Statistically, the inheritance from the maternal side appears to be a bit stronger, but the reason for this is unknown.

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Will Rogaine Still Be Effective if Used Once a Day Instead of Twice a Day?

Q: If Rogaine is used only once a day will it still be effective? — I.P., Hempstead, Long Island, NY

A: Once a day topical use of Rogaine (topical minoxidil 2% and 5%) is probably almost as effective as using it twice a day. The reason is, although minoxidil has a relatively short half-life of several hours when given orally, when topically applied, it has a half-life of 22 hours in the skin.

This suggests that once-a-day dosing is a reasonable option. It is important to realize that Pfizer, the company that now makes Rogaine, specifically states that it will be less effective if used only once a day.

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When Will Propecia be Available in Generic Form?

Q: I heard that Proscar, the 5mg version of finasteride, is now generic. Is that correct and is Propecia going generic as well? — F.J., Red Hook, Brooklyn, NYC

A: Yes, Finasteride 5mg (Proscar) is now available in a generic formulation. It is my understanding that Finasteride 1mg (Propecia) will not be available generically until the year 2012.

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Can I Switch from Propecia to Generic Proscar?

Q: I am currently taking Propecia 1mg a day for hair loss and heard that Proscar 5mg now comes in a generic form. If I get that, how should I take it? — G.A., Fort Lauderdale, FL

A: If you are currently taking Propecia 1mg a day, and want to switch to Proscar (Finasteride 5mg), you can either take Proscar 5mg, 1/4 pill every day or 1/2 pill every other day.

If you break up the pills, be mindful of the potential risk to pregnant women from handling crushed tablets. You can purchase a pill cutter in any pharmacy.

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Is Propecia Necessary for Hair Transplant?

Q I am 35 years old and have been using Propecia for the last 3 years, waiting to save enough money for a hair transplant. I no longer feel comfortable using it due to side effects. Can hair transplantation still be effective even without continuing to take this drug afterwards? — Y.C., Matinecock, New York

A Many people choose not to take Propecia or choose not to take it due to side effects and the surgical hair restoration is just as effective. The only difference is that medications can prevent further hair loss whereas surgery cannot.

Medications are not needed for the hair transplant to be successful or the transplanted hair to grow and be permanent.

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Do Propecia and Rogaine Act Synergistically?

Q: I have read on numerous websites that Propecia and Minoxidil work synergistically, and that a hair loss suffer will see better results using them together than either one alone. Do you believe this is the case, or do you think Propecia is enough treatment by itself for someone who just began to experience slight hair thinning and is too early for hair transplantation? — K.V., Hewlett Bay Park, New York

A: They may act synergistically since their mechanisms of action are different.

Rogaine (Minoxidil) stimulates the hair follicle directly, but Propecia (Finasteride 1 mg) permits hair growth by blocking the negative effects of DHT. Of the two, Propecia is far more effective. It is reasonable to use the two together as long as the medications are used regularly.

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Should I Increase Dose of Propecia if Hair Loss Continues During Treatment?

Q: I recently turned 22 and have been on Propecia for about 2.5 years. The amount of hair that de-miniaturized with daily 1 mg peaked about a year ago and I have seen steady thinning since. I feel that I am too young for a hair transplant. My question is whether or not an increase in dosage of Propecia is indicated here or if I should seek other options entirely? — N.W., Portland, Oregon

A: At 22 years old, I would increase the dose of Propecia before considering hair restoration surgery. However, it is important to realize that there is no scientific evidence that increasing the dose will have any additional effects. There are published data by Roberts et al in the JAAD in 1999 demonstrating that 5 mg is no better than 1 mg from controlled clinical trials.

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Before Hair Transplant, How Long Should I Use Propecia?

Q: I am 28 years old and was told that I have early Norwood Class 3 hair loss. I want to have a hair transplant but my doctor told me to use Propecia for 6 months and then come back to discuss surgery. I don’t want to wait that long, what should I do? — L.B., Oyster Bay Cove, NY

A: Actually, you should wait a full year.

If you are an Early Norwood Class 3, the Propecia can work so well (in actually growing hair back) that you may not even need a hair transplant.

The important point is that Propecia only starts working at 3-6 months and during this time there may actually be some shedding as the new growing hair literally pushes out the old.

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Can I Buy Propecia at a Discount?

Q: I am considering taking Propecia, but it I went to my local pharmacy in New York City and it is so expensive. Is there a way I can get it cheaper? — A.S.A., Midtown, Manhattan, NYC

A: The website www.drugstore.com sells Propecia online at a reasonable price. A doctor’s prescription is required.

Please note that Propecia is not yet available in generic form.

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Can I Vary Dosage of Propecia in Treatment of Hair Loss?

Q: I am not yet ready for a hair transplant but am considering Propecia. What is your opinion on the “optimal dose”? I know Merck recommends 1 mg, but could I get away with taking less? Or would I get a better result by taking more (2-3 mgs)? — V.B, Darien, CT

A: You may get away with 0.5 mg a day. However, there are published data by Roberts et. Al. in the JAAD in 1999 showing a dose-response between 0.2 and 1 mg/day, with the lower dose showing reduced efficacy, from controlled clinical trials.

There is little evidence that a higher dose helps, but I often double the dose if a patient has been on 1mg a day for 3-5 years and then stops responding. The hope is that this can postpone the need for surgical hair restoration, but there is no scientific data to support that it will.

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Should I Take Propecia After a Hair Transplant?

Q: I have heard that you should take Propecia for 6 to 12 months following a hair transplant. Is this correct? — P.E., Dallas, TX

A: I would only use Propecia if you plan to continue the medication long-term. That said, Propecia — the brand name of the hair loss drug finasteride — is very helpful in preventing further hair loss. I do recommend that patients who have hair loss stay on the medicine for an extended period, regardless of whether or not they decide to have a hair transplant procedure.

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What is "Shock Fall Out" After a Hair Transplant?

Q: What is “shock fall out”? – D.B., Chappaqua, N.Y.

A: Shedding after a hair transplant is also referred to by the very ominous sounding term “shock fall out.” The correct medical term is “effluvium” which literally means shedding. It is usually the miniaturized hair (i.e. the hair that is at the end of its lifespan due to genetic balding) that is most likely to be shed. Less likely, some healthy hair will be shed, but this should re-grow.

Interestingly, if transplants are spaced less than one year apart, one often notices some shedding of the hair from the first transplant, but this hair grows back completely. For most patients, effluvium is not a major issue and should not be a cause for concern.

Typically, when shedding occurs, a patient looks a little thinner during the several month period following the transplant, before the transplanted hair has started to grow. The thinning is often more noticeable to the patient than to others. Shedding is generally noted as a thinning, rather than of “masses of hair falling out,” as the term “shock fall out” erroneously suggests.

In general, the more miniaturization one has and the more rapid the hair loss, the more likely shedding will be from the hair restoration surgery. Young, actively balding patients would be at the greatest risk. Older patients with stable hair loss would have the least risk. In either situation, since miniaturized hair is eventually going to be lost, the effluvium has no long-term effect on the outcome of the procedure.

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How Do You Recommend Treating Early Hair Loss?

Q: I am 27 years old and have a Class 3 degree of hair loss. Should I do a hair transplant or consider non-surgical methods of hair restoration? — Y.B., Lake Forest Illinois

A: At age 27 with early hair loss, you should consider non-surgical options first.

Propecia is the most important medication, but you need to be on it for one year at the full dose of 1mg a day to assess its benefits.

If you have done this and other parameters are OK for a hair transplant, such as adequate donor hair density and scalp laxity and you have little evidence that you will become extensively bald (i.e. no donor miniaturization and no family history of extensive baldness), then hair transplantation can be considered.

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Will Increased Propecia Dosage Improve Hair Growth?

Q: I have been taking Propecia for three months. Would it help to up my dose? — F.J., Red Hook, Brooklyn, NYC

A: For most people (of average body weight of approximately 150 pounds) 1 mg is the ideal dose.

This is a statistical statement, however. There are some people who fall outside the bell curve. As we don’t know who these people are, we occasionally increase the dose on non-responders after 1-2 years, particularly for those who weigh significantly more than 150 pounds.

Remember, an increased dose also results in an increased risk of side effects and most people experience no additional benefit. There have been no scientific studies to support this regimen.

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At What Age Should I Consider a Hair Transplant?

Q: If my hair is just starting to thin, when should l have my first hair transplant? — T.O., Bayonne, NJ

A: It is best to wait until at least 25 before considering hair restoration surgery, although there are exceptions. The most important thing is to wait until you have hair loss that is a cosmetic problem. A hair transplant is a treatment for hair loss – it should not be used as a prevention. When hair loss is just starting, medical therapy is generally a better choice than surgery as it can both regrow hair and prevent future loss.

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When Can I Judge the Effectiveness of Treatment with Propecia?

Q: I was wondering why you chose two years as the amount of time one should wait to judge the effectiveness of Propecia. Have you had patients who only saw results after that long? Why does Merck say 3-6 months and Dr. Rassman at New Hair say 6-8 months? I know these numbers aren’t arbitrary, but I’m just wondering what the logic is behind this and how does this relate to planning a hair transplant? — I.P., Hempstead, Long Island, NY

A: The Merck data showed that over 90% of patients had peak response at 1 year and this has been my experience as well.

Most patients show the most dramatic response between 6 to 12 months with some getting additional benefit up to two years. Prior to 6 months, the results are quite variable and there may even be a net loss due to shedding during this period, as the Propecia stimulates a new anagen cycle…

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