Finasteride is a specific type II 5-alpha reductase inhibitor. This means that it inhibits the enzyme responsible for regulating conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The reduction of DHT levels in the scalp, decreases DHT's effects on the hair follicles, reversing the process of hair loss.
This is normally noticable after 3 months and the improvement is normally noticable for up to 2 years.
How does hair loss occur?
Male pattern hair loss, or androgenetic alopecia, is an androgen-dependent disorder. In genetically susceptible men, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a potent metabolite of the male androgen testosterone, contributes to male pattern hair loss. The conversion of testosterone to DHT is regulated by the enzyme 5-alpha reductase.
Some men are more susceptible to thinning hair than others and it normally starts to occur in the mid to late 20s, but can commence at any stage of life.
How to take Finasteride tablets
Finasteride is an oral medication that is taken once per day, typically at the same time, with or without food.
Finasteride is a small film coated pill that is easy to take and is a 1mg dosage of the active ingredient.
How effective is finasteride?
The data are from three large, multicentre, placebo-controlled studies of 1,879 men with mild-to-moderate, but not complete, male pattern hair loss. The men received either oral finasteride once daily or placebo for one year. The endpoints for the studies were objective hair counts taken from a 1-inch diameter circular area, and subjective assessments of improvement by patients, investigators, and an independent panel of dermatology experts who evaluated pre- and post- hair loss treatment photographs.
The treatment trials showed that finasteride can prevent hair loss in men with mild-to-moderate male pattern hair loss. In two of the clinical studies involving men with mild-to-moderate male pattern hair loss, 86% of men treated with finasteride tablets maintained or showed an increase in the amount of their hair based on hair counts during the course of the studies. Only 14% of men treated with finasteride had further hair loss after 12 months of treatment, compared with 58% of placebo patients.
On-going studies have demonstrated that finasteride halts hair loss or regrows hair in 9 out of 10 men taking it longterm every day.
How long do you have to take finasteride?
Daily use of finasteride for three months or more may be necessary before a patient will notice prevention of furtherhair loss or increased hair growth. There are no controlled clinical data on treatment for longer than 12 months. It probably will be necessary to continue treatment indefinitely to maintain the benefits.
Does finasteride cause any side effects?
In clinical trials, finasteride was very well tolerated in men, with most patients reporting no serious side effects. The principal side effects associated with finasteride were decreased libido (1.8% of finasteride patients versus 1.3% on placebo) and erectile dysfunction (1.3% finasteride versus 0.7% placebo). In addition, decreased volume of ejaculate was reported in 0.8% of men treated with finasteride and 0.4% of those on placebo. Gynaecomastia (breast enlargement) has also been reported. All of these side effects resolved upon discontinuation of therapy, and also resolved in many men who preferred to continue therapy. Postmarketing reports have included some patients complaining of depression, but the risk of this is likely very small.