Millions of balding men are about to realize their dream of a pill to regrow hair: Once-a-day tablets will hit pharmacy shelves next month, but it may take lots of patience - and money - before men see results.
The Food and Drug Administration announced Monday that it approved Propecia, the first pill for male pattern baldness, a potential way for men both to grow new hair and to stop existing strands from falling out.
“It’s really an impressive drug,” said Dr. Ken Washenik of New York University, who tested the pill on his patients and wound up taking experimental doses for his own baldness. “People grew the kind of hair that relatives would notice. If you were home for the holidays, they’d say, ‘What did you do to your hair?”’
The FDA warned that women should never use Propecia because it can cause birth defects. Even for postmenopausal women, studies of safety and effectiveness are not complete.
For men, Propecia is not a miracle pill. About half who use it grow varying amounts of hair, and men may have to use it for six months to a year before they learn whether they’re among the half that benefits, Washenik said.
Manufacturer Merck & Co. estimated each month’s supply will cost $45 to $49.
But Washenik pointed to studies that show even if men don’t regrow lots of hair, they may like Propecia: Only 17 percent of balding men who took Propecia for two years were still losing their hair vs. 72 percent of men who took a placebo.
Propecia, which the FDA approved Friday night, works by suppressing a hormone that shrinks hair follicles, thus causing hair loss.