What is Propecia?
Propecia is a brand name version of the medication finasteride, used treat male pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia). This type of male pattern hair loss is characterized by the receding hairline on the sides and temporal area of the head. It is common among men over age 50. Propecia treats mild to moderate hair loss occurring in the anterior and vertex regions of the mid scalp, and may be effective in maintaining existing hair in the areas.
Finasteride works by inhibiting the action of a certain enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotesterone (DHT). In 1992, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved finasteride 5 mg for treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), and is marketed by Merck under the trade name Proscar.
Finasteride was later found to be effective in the treatment of male pattern baldness. In 1997, the FDA approved finasteride 1 mg for treatment of hair loss in men, and is marketed by Merck under the trade name Propecia. Propecia has not been proven to be effective in treating baldness or thinning hair at the temples as well as hair loss in women and children. In fact, it is approved for use only in men and is contraindicated for women and children.
Each tablet of Propecia contains 1 mg of finasteride. The Proscar tablet should not be used as a substitute for Propecia for treatment of hair loss. Propecia is specifically intended for hair loss treatment and comes as film-coated tablet to be taken orally. Its covering prevents contact with the drug’s active ingredients during handling. Pregnant women or those who plan to become pregnant should keep away from the contents of this drug. Take note that exposure to finasteride, even physical contact to its dust or crumbs, can cause harm on the fetus.
Propecia is used to treat male pattern baldness; this medication is not for use by women or children. Male pattern baldness is believed to be an inherited condition caused by the chemical dihydrotestosterone. This medication should be taken at the same time each day and used consistently in order to gain maximum benefit of the product and it is very common that results are not seen until up to 3-6 months of use.
Doctors recommend using Propecia for up to a year to in order to attain benefits; if results are not seen after 12 months it is unlikely that the product will be beneficial for you. Once use of Propecia is stopped, the benefits that have been obtained will usually be reversed within 12 months.
Your healthcare provider may also recommend propecia for other purposes not discussed in this medication guide.
How Propecia Works
Propecia works by inhibiting the action of a certain enzyme, called 5-alpha-reductase, which converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The reduction in testosterone and increase in DHT cause the growth of the prostate as well as loss of hair. By increasing the testosterone levels of the body, hair on the scalp increases without increasing the amount of body hair. When taken at recommended doses, finasteride can also help decrease the size of the prostate for people with BPH.
The effects of finasteride on the scalp, as well as on the prostate, only last as long as the medicine is used. One the medication is discontinued, hair may start to get lost and prostate may grow again.
How to Take Propecia
Read your prescription label and take Propecia exactly as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Do not take more than or for longer than the recommended amount and duration. Propecia is taken orally with a full glass of water. It may be taken with or without food. To maintain the desired blood levels, it should be taken around the same time of the day.
Normally, you need to continue taking Propecia for at least three months or more before you can see some positive effects. To get the maximum benefit from Propecia, it should be taken regularly for over a prolonged period of time. However, if Propecia does not produce the desired effects after twelve months, further use is unlikely to help in treating your hair loss problem. If you discontinue taking this medication, hair loss may be apparent within 12 months of stopping medication. Talk with your doctor about this.
Your healthcare provider may recommend frequent blood tests to check if you are benefiting from the drug and it is not causing adverse effects. You may also be examined for prostate cancer through blood test called prostate specific antigen (PSA). Regular physician visits are necessary to achieve treatment goals and prevent problems.
Important Things To Remember When Using Propecia
- Propecia is approved only for men. It should not be taken by a child or a woman. Its active ingredient can be absorbed through the skin, therefore children and women should keep away from this drug.
- Exposure to finasteride during pregnancy can cause birth defects on the infant. Pregnant women or those who may become pregnant should never handle this medication.
- In case a woman or a child accidentally comes into contact with the contents of Propecia, especially crushed or broken tablets, the exposed area should be cleansed with soap and water immediately.
- Inform your healthcare provider if you have allergy to finasteride or a similar drug called dutasteride (Avodart). It is recommended that you inform your healthcare provider about all allergies you have.
- Finasteride use may increase the risk of prostate cancer. Your healthcare provider will normally check you for other medical conditions, including infections, liver disease, prostate cancer, and urinary problems, that would prevent you from using finasteride safely.
- If you notice any breast lumps, nipple discharge, pain or other changes in the breast, contact your healthcare provider at once. These may indicate male breast cancer.