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How Hair Loss Medicines Work

Posted Aug 24 2008 1:49pm
ANNOUNCER: Most people have heard of the medical treatments for hair loss, Propecia and Rogaine, but many don't know exactly how they work.

MARC AVRAM, MD: Propecia affects the conversion of one form of testosterone to another in the hair follicles. By blocking the conversion of one form to another of testosterone, it helps maintain existing hair and helps even promote the regrowth of hair follicles, which have been thinning. As part of male pattern hair loss, what happens is, each cycle the hair gets thinner and thinner, finer and finer until it finally doesn't grow any more. Propecia can convert some of those fining, finer, thinner hairs into thicker hairs.

ROBERT LEONARD, DO: We don't know the exact mechanism of action of Rogaine, but we feel that it increases the protein building blocks, allowing the hair follicle to create a hair. Wherever it's applied to, where follicles reside, it is considered a hypertrichotic agent, which actually will have hair growth.

MARC AVRAM, MD: It was first discovered as a side effect of an oral medication for high blood pressure. And it was studied and showed that it does work for hair loss.

ANNOUNCER: However they work, both have be shown to be effective if taken for the long term.

MARC AVRAM, MD: Rogaine needs to be used indefinitely to treat male, female pattern hair loss. The reason is, is because we keep getting new hair follicles coming in through the skin. So we need to keep exposing it to the medication.

Probably the most common mistake for people taking Propecia is not taking it long enough. A lot of men take it, they take it for a month, two, three months; they don't see results and they stop. You need to use it for at least six to eight months. And most men, about 85% of men who do stay that long, end up being happy with it and continue using it.

ANNOUNCER: If these represent the current treatments in hair loss, what's in store for the future?

MARC AVRAM, MD: Other medications in clinical trials are much at much earlier stages; we don't have good clinical data yet to talk about in terms of affecting and what might affect patients.

The newer medications that are coming out are a combination of specific, the way Propecia is, in terms of specifically targeting the conversion of one form of testosterone to another. That's one group that's very specific to a certain receptor we want to attack or something we want to manipulate in the hair growth cycle.

And others are being used for other purposes in the body and being found to affect hair in some way. So they're being researched from that angle.

ANNOUNCER: One area of active research is the use of hair cloning.

ROBERT LEONARD, DO: Cloning is actually where cells are actually removed from the hair follicle, grown outside of the body and are multiplied.

MARC AVRAM, MD: That's something that's being worked on. It will probably be the next significant leap in the treatment of hair loss, but doesn't exist in 2003.

ANNOUNCER: With these current and emerging treatments for hair loss, the future looks bright.

MARC AVRAM, MD: Ten years ago, the only thing that you could offer a patient was plugs. That wasn't a very good medical, surgical solution. Now we can offer a good surgical solution and good medical solutions.

I think over the next five, ten years, there will be an equal advancement through hair cloning, further refinement in hair transplant techniques and newer medications. So I think there is good hope.

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