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Old medicine that costs pennies can restore hair loss, doctors find

Aisha Nozari

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Old medicine that costs pennies can restore hair loss, doctors find

Doctors are throwing their weight behind a hair loss medicine that’s been around for decades and costs less than 50p a pop.

Minoxidil — which is sold under the brand name Rogaine — has been sitting on pharmacy shelves since the 80s, but wasn’t particularly popular among patients because it had to be rubbed into the scalp to work.

Now, doctors are prescribing it as a pill and claim it’s much more effective taken this way. 

MailOnline reports that minoxidil can cost as little as 57 cents (48p) per day and produces impressive results when prescribed as a low dose tablet. 

A hair loss medicine that’s been around for decades costs less than 50p a pop. Credit: JG Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
A hair loss medicine that’s been around for decades costs less than 50p a pop. Credit: JG Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

Minoxidil is now behind ‘mounting success stories’ prompting more and more doctors to prescribe the drug, although it’s yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for hair loss.

Back in 1988, minoxidil in lotion form was approved to help men with hair growth and in 1992 started being used by women too.

However, the lotion wasn’t particularly popular because in order to seep past remaining hairs to reach patients’ scalp, it had to be left on their heads for at least four hours a day. 

Minoxidil is broken down to an active form by enzymes in hair follicles which then stimulates the growth of new hairs.

When taken as a pill, minoxidil is still broken down in the same way, resulting in hair re-growth.

Dr Rodney Sinclair, a dermatologist at the University of Melbourne, discovered that minoxidil can be issued in pill form when one of his patients had to stop using Rogaine lotion due to an allergic rash. 

Dr Sinclair got around the problem by cutting minoxidil pills into quarters and prescribing those instead. 

The patient’s rash disappeared, and Dr Sinclair found the drug was still effective when the dosage was lowered to one-fortieth of that in the original pill he cut.

Dr Sinclair’s findings were presented in 2015 after he’d offered the pill to over 100 women and he has now treated more than 10,000 patients. 

Minoxidil — which is sold under the brand name Rogaine — has been sitting on pharmacy shelves since the 80s. Credit: Alex Segre / Alamy Stock Photo
Minoxidil — which is sold under the brand name Rogaine — has been sitting on pharmacy shelves since the 80s. Credit: Alex Segre / Alamy Stock Photo

Back in May, researchers in the US discovered another drug that could counter hair loss among alopecia sufferers. 

American pharmaceutical company Concert Pharmaceuticals trialled a twice-daily pill that can combat and reverse rapid hair loss for the condition, which has no cure.

By the end of May, the trial had found that four in ten participants were able to regrow 80 percent or more of their hair within a year.

Featured Image Credit: Crystal Aguh/Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Topics: Health, World News, Science

Aisha Nozari
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