A look at the early days (2000-2002)
Finasteride is FDA approved for men with a type of hair loss known as "androgenetic alopecia" (male pattern balding). It is not FDA approved for women but physicians may use off label if they feel if could help their patient.
So does it help women with genetic hair loss?
Early studies suggested "no". A study by Vera Price and colleagues in 2000 suggested a 1 mg dose in post menopausal women did not help. The study had some limitations in that some women in the study may not have had androgenetic alopecia. But nevertheless, these early studies suggested maybe it does not help women.
But 2 years later in 2002 when Shum and colleagues presented 4 women (2 pre and 2 post menopausal) who responded to a higher dose of finasteride - 2.5 mg finasteride. All 4 women had hyperandrogenism (one or more of elevated hormones, hair on the face, infertility issues). This refueled interest in the role of finasteride for women. We'll discuss additional studies this week.
Finasteride must never be used by women who are trying to become pregnant or who are pregnant as is can harm a developing baby. Other side effects can include mood changes, decreased libido, breast tenderness, breast enlargement and fatigue. It is more commonly used in post menopausal women because of the concerns about pregnancy.
Shum et al. Hair loss in women with hyperandrogenism: Four cases responding to finasteride. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 2002; 47: 733-9
Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Vancouver office at 604.283.9299