Hair loss reversed using a cheap off-label blood pressure drug – Insider

Doctors have discovered a new way to treat hair loss that costs significantly less than other treatments.
Instead of using the topical gel Rogaine — FDA-approved in 2006 to treat hair loss — dermatologists are using an oral version of the active ingredient, minoxidil.
It’s a rogue, off-label use: Oral minoxidil is used to treat high blood pressure. But patients often complain the drug causes them to grow hair everywhere.
So dermatologists started experimenting with it — giving hair-loss patients a fraction of the dose used to reduce hypertension.
Through research and case studies, they have now found the “sweet spot” where the drug can keep hair growth to primarily the scalp, according to Dr. Crystal Ugochi Aguh, an associate professor of dermatology at John’s Hopkins Medicine.
Now, as the New York Times reported, it’s an open secret among dermatologists: oral minoxidil is astoundingly effective — at least for some patients.
Patients typically take 20 to 40 milligrams of minoxidil to treat high blood pressure, but dermatologists figured out 0.6 to 5 milligrams of the drug can cause fine hair growth to the scalp.
The drug only costs about $5 for a pack of 30 2.5 mg tablets. Rogaine, in comparison, about $50 and a Hims subscription sets consumers at least $20 month.
“It’s really been dermatologists who have kind of found this sweet spot of enough hair growth on the scalp that’s significant to make a change in quality of life, but reasonable enough that patients don’t have to deal with some of the side effects that are seen at higher doses,” Aguh told Insider.
For topical minoxidil treatments to work, Aguh said patients must generously apply the serum — which can feel sticky — to their scalp. Women, or patients with longer hair, might have difficulty getting the serum applied to their scalp in high enough doses for the medicine to stimulate hair growth.
“If you’re a man with short hair, you have a buzz cut, no big deal,” Aguh told Insider. “If you’re a woman with long hair, they hate how it feels. It feels sticky, it feels like straw.”
The low-dose treatment can also be a better option for young men because it’s non-hormonal. Another FDA-approved hair loss treatment, finasteride, comes with side effects like low libido and erectile dysfunction.
Aguh stressed not everyone is a candidate for low-dose minoxidil. The low-dose treatment will not help men with progressed hair thinning, Aguh said. These patients may require a more intensive treatment, like a hair transplant.
“Just having hair loss does not mean that you’re gonna respond to minoxidil because there are several dozen different types of hair loss, and they’re all incredibly different,” Aguh said. “So you have to have a great diagnosis, which means you have to get it diagnosed by your dermatologist.”
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