The Most Promising Drugs Used to Treat Baldness

When it comes to combating hair loss, it is medicinal pills and topicals that spring to most peoples’ minds as the options holding the greatest promise. There also happen to be other available treatment options, such as surgical as well as non-surgical hair replacement, but to date only oral and topical medicinal treatments have been proven to reduce and reverse hair loss naturally. Hair transplantation, though providing the best cosmetic results, cannot slow or reverse hair loss. Natural and herbal hair loss treatments seek to mimic medicinal treatments in their mode of action but their effectiveness in treating hair loss has never been confirmed in any significant clinical study and many of them are associated with hair scams.

The two medicinal treatments that have been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the US for treating hair loss are topical minoxidil (trade name Rogaine/Regaine) and oral finasteride (Propecia). These two hair loss drugs have been also approved by national health supervisory authorities in many other countries. Topical minoxidil is suitable for both sexes, whereas finasteride can only be prescribed to male patients. Minoxidil is a vasodilator, originally used to treat high blood pressure, which was later found to stimulate new hair growth when applied topically to the scalp. Its exact mechanism of action is not known, though.

Finasteride (better known as Propecia) is an antiandrogen that was initially applied to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), also known as prostate enlargement. It acts by inhibiting conversion of the male hormone testosterone to the follicle harming didydrotestosterone (DHT). The discovery of finasteride’s positive influence on hair growth led to finding the true cause of hereditary baldness, which are the harmful attacks of DHT on our hair follicles. Since making this discovery, a quest for other alternative DHT inhibitors has begun, especially amongst antiandrogen drugs and herbs that have, in the past, been used to treat urinary problems.

Dutasteride (trade name Avodart) is a drug similar to finasteride and has been studied extensively for treating hair loss. It is currently undergoing phase III clinical testing. It has been approved for treating BPH and is therefore available in pharmacies in many countries around the world. Although it has not yet been approved for treating hair loss by any national health supervisory authority, it is being prescribed by some clinics and doctors to male patients who no longer respond to finasteride. Dutasteride is believed to be a more powerful hair loss drug than finasteride but also with more severe side effects.

Flutamide (trade name Eulexin) is an extremely powerful antiandrogen used to treat prostate cancer. It works by binding to the androgen receptors and thus competing with DHT. Oral use of flutamide can cause serious side effects but it is believed that topical applications might have less adverse side effects and could be, in the future, used to combat hereditary hair loss. More research is needed to verify such claims.

Spironolactone (trade name Aldactone) is another antiandrogen that works by binding to androgen receptors, competing with DHT. It is used in women to treat acne, excess body hair and hair loss and although there are some generic topical applications designed for treatment of male pattern baldness containing spironolactone, it has never been approved to treat hair loss in men and should better be avoided.

Aminexil, was developed by L’Oreal to treat baldness in men and women and its molecule is very similar to that of minoxidil. Its mode of action is not exactly known and it is believed to be a less powerful weapon in the fight against hair loss than minoxidil.

NEOSH101 is one of the most promising novel hair loss drugs under development. It is in phase II clinical trials and is supposed to be a hair growth stimulant, distantly related in its actions to minoxidil. Although not expected to become an ultimate cure for baldness, it could improve the chances of many hair loss sufferers of regrowing some of their lost hair.

The above list of medicinal treatments for hair loss is not exhaustive. There are also other drugs though to help treat hereditary baldness, such as superoxide dismutase, fluridil, ketoconazole, alfatradiol, etc. but none of them has ever been proven in any serious clinical study to promote hair growth and further studies will be needed to evaluate their actual effects on hair loss. Therefore, for the time being, minoxidil and finasteride remain the main weapons in the fight against genetically-determined hair loss conditions in male patients.

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