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Proven and Unproven Treatments for Hair Loss

Posted Aug 24 2008 1:49pm
ANNOUNCER: For a medicine to be used in the united states, it must go through an intense review.

MARC AVRAM, MD: It has to go through a whole regulatory process, beginning on the bench at the laboratory, moving on to clinical trials in smaller groups and then larger groups of clinical trials. And then it goes before a federal panel, which is what the FDA is, and they approve or not approve the medication.

ANNOUNCER: For hair loss, the field of FDA-approved medications is narrow.

MARC AVRAM, MD: There's two medications FDA-approved for hair loss for men, and one for women. For men, the two are Propecia and Rogaine, and for women, just Rogaine is approved.

They're highly effective in patients who are committed to taking them for at least eight to twelve months. And about 80-85 percent of people who take it will see some results.

ANNOUNCER: Besides these therapies, doctors advocate maintaining good nutrition to keep hair healthy.

MARC AVRAM, MD: I think having good nutrition is important for everything. It's good for your heart, it's good for your GI tract, it's good for your bones, good for your hair, too. So if someone wants to make sure they're getting enough nutrition for their hair, I think taking a supplement is fine, in the right dose.

SHARI LIEBERMAN, PhD: In fact, the Journal of the American Medical Association recently did a study and a review that said that really Americans should be taking at least a multivitamin supplement. There's no downside to doing it.

ANNOUNCER: Herbal therapies may also be effective, although there is less evidence to support their use. One herb that may help is saw palmetto.

MARC AVRAM, MD: Saw palmetto is something that's very popular, I think probably of all the over-the-counter ones, that's the one that may have the most effect in terms of hair loss.

SHARI LIEBERMAN, PhD: I would recommend that you look for a standardized saw palmetto extract. You buy one of the bigger companies that are more visible in the health food store or pharmacy.

ANNOUNCER: Several other hair loss products have no proof of effectiveness and should be avoided.

MARC AVRAM, MD: I've heard claims if you use this product, you'll grow all your hair back, if you're completely bald. I don't think it makes any sense and I think it's taking advantage of people's anxiety.

SHARI LIEBERMAN, PhD: I generally advise both consumers and practitioners: Go for the products that have sponsored research. Why not? It raises the bar of accountability.

ANNOUNCER: Whatever you use for hair loss, working with your doctor can help make sure the treatments you choose are appropriate and effective.

SHARI LIEBERMAN, PhD: Some people don't want to use drugs out of the starting gate. They can certainly try these natural remedies, but you know what? They can also combine the natural with the drug remedies as well.

MARC AVRAM, MD: I think you have to be open-minded and look at products. But use common sense to think what this product is claiming it will do. Does it really make sense what they say it's going to do? And the best way to do that is to check with your primary doctor or your dermatologist before you start it.

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