January 5, 1998

Media Contacts: Sarah Goodwin, 404/727-3366 -
Kathi Ovnic, 404/727-9371 -

ORLANDO --A pill form of the drug finasteride was approved Dec. 22 by the Food and Drug Administration for treating male-pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia).

Emory University dermatology professor Mark Ling, M.D., Ph.D., is among the researchers nationwide who conducted the pivotal Phase III clinical trials of the anti-baldness pill. Some 40 Atlanta men enrolled in the Emory component of the study and were among the 1,553 men ages 18-41 with mild-to-moderate (but not complete) on going hair loss who participated nationwide. After two years of taking the pill daily, 83 percent of a 1,215-man subset reported their hair count had stayed the same or increased. Hair loss resumes when the medication is discontinued.

Finasteride has not been tested for hair loss in older men or women. Since it may cause severe birth defects in male fetuses, women of childbearing age are warned against any exposure to Propecia, including touching broken pills. But Dr. Ling believes the drug holds promise for women who experience the hair loss that is fairly common after menopause.

The drug is not expected to benefit men with complete hair loss or hair loss for reasons other than hormonal predisposition (such as chemotherapy). It does not increase bodily hair. Its effect on receding hair loss at the temples has not been established.

Finasteride blocks the conversion of the male hormone testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which triggers hair loss.

Merck & Co. has begun marketing the pill under the brand name Propecia (finasteride 1 mg). The company sells finasteride in a 5 mg formulation called Proscar that is often prescribed for men with enlarged prostate glands (benign prostatic hyperplasia). Propecia is expected to be available by prescription in mid-January. The clinical trials were funded by Merck and Co.


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