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Hair Restoration Answers

Does Propecia Cause Infertility?

Q: I’ve heard that FDA added a description of reports of male infertility to the side effect labels of both Propecia and Proscar (finasteride). Is this a likely side effect in your experience? — S.S., Rolling Hills, California

A: Propecia (finasteride 1mg) may, uncommonly, lead to male infertility by changing the consistency of the male ejaculate as well as decreasing the sperm count.

Ejaculate is a combination of sperm produced by the testes and a viscous fluid made by the prostate. Since finasteride shrinks the prostate it make the ejaculate less viscous (more watery).

Most patients taking Propecia and trying to conceive have no issues.

If one is trying to conceive for 4-6 months and having difficulty, then it is reasonable to stop taking Propecia.

It is important to know that taking Propecia while trying to conceive will not lead to congenital deformities or issues with the fetus as long as the women does not come in direct contact with the medication.

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What is Latest Information on Persistent Side Effects from Finasteride?

Q: I have heard that side effects from finasteride can persist even after stopping the medication. What is the most current information on this issue? — S.V., Short Hills, N.J.

A: For the past two years I have been on the ISHRS’s Task Force on Finasteride Adverse Events and struggling to make sense of this issue. There seems to be a disconnect between the relatively low incidence of side effects that we, as physicians, see in our practices, what published controlled studies have shown, and what is now being reported on the internet. For example, a 2012 study by Sato of 3,177 Japanese men published the Journal of Dermatology, showed a 0.7% incidence of adverse reactions to finasteride 1% and no persistent side effects after stopping the medication.

That said, there has been a recent increase in anecdotal reports of side effects from finasteride as well as reports of persistent side effects after the medication has been discontinued (referred to as “Post-finasteride Syndrome”).

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Hair Restoration Research

Summary Of Finasteride Label Changes

On April 11, 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced changes to the professional labels for Propecia (finasteride 1 mg) and Proscar (finasteride 5 mg) to expand the list of sexual adverse events reported to FDA as some of these events have been reported to continue after the drug is no longer being used (note that erectile dysfunction after stopping use of these drugs was added as a known event in 2011). The new label changes include:

  • A revision to the Propecia label to include libido disorders, ejaculation disorders, and orgasm disorders that continued after discontinuation of the drug.
  • A revision to the Proscar label to include decreased libido that continued after discontinuation of the drug.
  • A revision to both the Propecia and Proscar labels to include a description of reports of male infertility and/or poor semen quality that normalized or improved after drug discontinuation.
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Hair Restoration Answers

What Hair Loss Medications are Effective DHT Blockers and are they Sold Over the Counter?

Q: Are there DHT blockers that are sold in the pharmacy over the counter? — C.C., — Fairfield County, Connecticut

A: The only effective DHT blockers are finasteride (Propecia, Proscar) and dutasteride (Avodart).

These medications require a doctor’s prescription and are not sold OTC. Nizoral is a topical shampoo for seborrhea (a type of dandruff) that is sold over the counter, but it is not effective in treating hair loss.

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Hair Restoration Answers

Will Increasing the Dosage of Propecia Stop the Miniaturization Process?

Q: I have been using Propecia since it was released to the public in 1998 and have found it to work very well. Recently, its effectiveness has stopped and my hairs are miniaturizing again. I am going to increase the dosage to 1/2 a pill Proscar every day. How long will the increased dosage take to stop the miniaturizing process? — T.U., Chappaqua, N.Y.

A: It seems to take the same time to work as when you initially started Propecia.

When patients increase their dose, I rarely see re-growth, but rather the expectation is that further hair loss will be decreased. When it does work to actually re-grow hair, we sometimes see an initial period of shedding, similar to when finasteride was first started.

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Hair Restoration Answers

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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Hair Restoration Answers

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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Hair Restoration Answers

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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Hair Restoration Answers

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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Hair Restoration Answers

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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Hair Restoration Answers

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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