Androgenetic Alopecia: Should I start two treatments at once?
There are many treatments available for any particular hair loss condition. Let’s take androgenetic alopecia as an example. Individuals with androgenetic alopecia might consider topical minoxidil, oral hormone blocking medications, low level laser or even platelet rich plasma. For some types of hair loss there may be an even greater array of choices.
I’m often asked if patients should start more than one treatment at the same time. My personal view is not necessarily the right answer or the only view on the subject. However, my personal view is my view. My personal view is that whenever possible medications should not be started at the same times but rather staggered. The intervals of staggering the treatments will depend on the specific situation and the urgency of treatment.
Consider the 34 year old female patient with androgenetic alopecia who is considering topical minoxidil and oral spironolactone. After a careful review of the patient’s medical history, blood tests, and examining the scalp, it is determined that both are good options for the patient. I am faced with two options: Start both or start one at a time (stagger the treatments). Let’s look at the implications of both.
Treatment Option 1: Start Minoxidil and Spironolactone at the Same Time
Both Spironolactone and Minoxidil are recommended for the patient in this situation. What needs to be considered is that minoxidil has about a 30 % chance of helping the patient. It has a 70 % chance of not being all that helpful. Spironolactone has a 40 % chance of improving hair growth. If both are started at the same time and the patient experiences and improvement it will be difficult if not impossible to know which treatment was responsible for the improvement.
Was it the minoxidil?
Was it the spironolactone?
Was it both?
Treatment Option 2: Start Minoxidil First and Introduce Spironolactone in 6-9 months.
My personal preference in this situation was to start minoxidil first. After 6-9 months of treatment (once I determine if the minoxidil is working or not), I can make a decision to add spironolactone. In this case I can have a clear sense for the entire lifetime of the patient what helps and what does not.
Comment and Conclusions
Treatments for some hair loss conditions (such as androgenetic alopecia) are life-long. A 33 year old woman who lives to 93 could potentially have 60 years of use of a given medication. From a cost perspective alone, once can potentially save a patient $ 36,000 over their lifetime by confirming that a medication does not work and should be abandoned.
Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887