A report in the International Journal of Dermatology concerning the treatment of women with finasteride - the DHT-blocking drug that is currently MHRA licensed and FDA approved as a treatment for both benign prostatic hyperplasia and, in 1mg/day doses, for the treatment of Male Pattern Hair Loss - has provided mixed results.
A team of researchers from the University of California, USA, investigated the 'off label' exploratory prescription of finasteride to women for a range of issues, including as a treatment for Female Pattern Hair Loss, in a systematic review.
The results of 65 studies whereby women had been treated with finasteride, which had full reports published between January 1997 and July 2017, and involving a total of 2,683 participants overall, aged between 6 and 88 years of age, were analysed.
These mostly involved women who were treated for excessive hair growth - hirsutism - or genetic hair loss - androgenic alopecia, more commonly referred to as Female Pattern Hair Loss or Female Pattern Baldness. Other conditions it was used for include polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and chronic migraines, as well as Lichen Planopilaris and Frontal Fibrosing Alopecia - both of which also cause hairloss.
The researchers findings showed that the prescribed doses of finasteride ranged from 0.5mg per day to 5mg per day - which is five times the amount authorised for men as a Male Pattern Hair Loss treatment.
Treatment duration also varied, with it being used over a specific duration of between 6 and 12 months in 57.6% of cases, as monotherapy in 88.9% of cases, and for continuous use in 96.4% of cases.
In the American researchers' published conclusion, the study author states that "the studies reviewed highlight the finasteride dosage, length of treatment, and candidate conditions that can benefit from finasteride therapy."
"Due to finasteride's potential teratogenicity, it is important to not only caution finasteride use in women who are considering pregnancy but also administer a contraceptive to women of reproductive age throughout the duration of finasteride use," the team warns.
It has been established that women should not come into contact with finasteride during pregnancy, nor whilst trying to conceive, either via their male partner or by touching broken tablets, due to its potential risk to foetal health.
A warning that further studies were needed in order to fully assess any "potential consequences" and to "optimize treatment protocols" was also included in the report.
Whilst these case studies showed that oral finasteride could potentially be beneficial to women with chronic migraines, hirsutism and/or PCOS, its evidence in relation to being an effective Female Pattern Hair Loss treatment was mixed, showing promise in some cases, but not all.
Topical finasteride solutions are currently being explored for Male Pattern Baldness, with the hope of this type of treatment being made available from around 2020.
It is possible that a topical form of finasteride may also be more suitable for some women, given - in general - drugs tend to have a lessened side effect profile when applied directly to the skin than when taken orally. However, in-depth clinical trials would be needed to prove its efficacy, tolerability and safety before this could be confirmed.
In the meantime, clinically-proven topical solutions of high strength minoxidil, which can be used individually on in conjunction with a range of additional, complementary hair growth supporting products, can prove effective for women with female pattern baldness who are looking for thinning hair solutions.
A hair loss specialist will be able to provide a diagnosis and advice as to the most appropriate course of action following a consultation, either in-person or online.
The Belgravia Centre is a world-renowned group of a hair loss clinic in Central London, UK. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation from anywhere in the world for home-use treatment.
View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world's largest gallery of hair growth photos and demonstrates the level of success that so many of Belgravia's patients achieve.