Male hair loss drug may also be effective in some women, study says

April 6, 2006

Bologna , Italy -- A research team at the University of Bologna reports that Propecia (Merck), a drug used to treat male hair loss, may help halt women's hair loss when taken with birth control pills.

Bologna, Italy -- A research team at the University of Bologna reports that Propecia (Merck), a drug used to treat male hair loss, may help halt women’s hair loss when taken with birth control pills.

The study, which was reported in the Archives of Dermatology, examined 37 premenopausal women with thinning hair who took Propecia and birth control pills for a year. Hair loss was reduced for most of these subjects at what were described as “slight” or “moderate” rates, and no side effects were reported.

Originally used for the treatment of prostate problems, Propecia is now used to treat male-pattern hair loss. The drug blocks the formation of male hormones that can cause hair loss. Propecia is not approved for use by women due to the risk of birth defects.

The women in the Bologna study (none of whom had abnormal hormone levels) took the same type of birth control pill, which also contains an ingredient that curbs male hormones -- and may also be the ingredient that slowed the women’s hair loss, the study notes.

The study also notes that more work needs to be done before drawing any conclusions. For example, the study did not include a comparison group of women who got a placebo, and the researchers noted that more research is needed to determine with certainty that the Propecia was what caused the curbing of hair loss, what dosages are most effective, and what role the birth-control pills played in curbing hair loss.