Old drug can tackle baldness when taken orally, find US doctors


A long-time drug, which was being used on the scalp for hair-loss prevention with varied results, has now been found to be uniformly effective in small oral doses.

According to The New York Times, Minoxidil, “or the energetic ingredient in Rogaine, a lotion or foam that’s rubbed on the scalp, was first accepted for males in 1988, then ladies in 1992, and it’s now generic. The medication’s use as a hair-growth therapy was found by chance a long time in the past. Excessive-dose Minoxidil capsules had been getting used to deal with hypertension. However, sufferers typically observed that the capsules prompted hair development throughout their bodies. So, its producer developed a Minoxidil lotion — ultimately named Rogaine — and acquired it to develop hair on balding heads.”

According to dermatologists, the lotion/foam either wasn’t effective uniformly or its stickiness was not welcomed by users. “Minoxidil must be transformed to an energetic type by sulfotransferase enzymes which will or might not be current in enough portions in hair roots. When the drug is taken orally, it’s mechanically transformed to an energetic type,” the news report said.

But the discovery happened quite by chance when Dr Rodney Sinclair, a professor of dermatology at the College of Melbourne in Australia, found a female patient allergic to the drug on application. So, he chopped Minoxidil capsules into quarters and administered them orally. Small oral doses over time actually encouraged her hair development. About 100 women patients showed similar results.

“Low dose Minoxidil is getting quite popular in India as well. Dermatologists have been using it in dosages of 2.5 mg either daily or on alternate days for female and male pattern baldness. Minoxidil was earlier given for the treatment of hypertension; high doses were seen to increase hair on a female’s body. It was then formulated as a solution for application on scalp in the 1980s and has been the gold standard of treatment of all kinds of baldness since then. Oral medicines in baldness are mostly supplement-based, or anti-androgenic, meaning drugs which decrease the male hormone levels in the body. They have their own set of side effects. Doctors and patients alike tend to avoid them for long-term use. Oral Minoxidil in low doses ensures that the patient gets better results with less side-effects. Expected side-effects of oral Minoxidil are hypertrichosis on the face or elsewhere in the body and postural hypotension, but they are rarely seen with low doses,” says Dr Sonal Bansal, Consultant, Dermatology, Fortis Gurugram.

“Oral Minoxidil is purported to work on male and female pattern baldness, alopecia areata, telogen effluvium and several other types of hair loss. It is proving to be a good substitute in patients where nothing else is working. Having said that, more studies are required to study the long term side-effects of low dose Minoxidil,” she advises.

Without a rigorous trial resulting in FDA approval, the usage of Minoxidil capsules for hair loss is off-label in the US.

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