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Saving Money on Prescription Medication for Hair Loss

June 14, 2021

high drug prices

Regardless of age or gender, no one likes losing their hair. Thinning hair tends to make people feel very self-conscious about one thing or another — that they look older, that they look less attractive, or that they don’t look as healthy.

While none of these things are necessarily true, they are very real problems for the people experiencing thinning hair. As such, they often begin to look into prescription medications for hair loss.

There are quite a few products on the market with varying degrees of effectiveness, and for those who are willing to spend the money, there are even medical interventions, like follicular unit extraction (where a surgeon literally removes hair follicles from the back of your head and moves them to spots that are thinning).

People suffering from pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia) have likely been struggling to find a reliable hair loss solution for quite a while. It’s about time they find a cheaper alternative to the exorbitant prices in the U.S. — the most common of which being Propecia.

Here’s what Propecia is, how it works, how much it costs, and why it’s not approved for use in women.

What is Propecia?

Propecia (finasteride) is a popular prescription medication for hair loss. It was the first oral medication to be approved for the treatment of androgenic alopecia in men, specifically.

It is not typically the first hair loss medication that people try. Most often, people begin with topical solutions like Rogaine (minoxidil), in part because they’re low-risk in terms of side effects and they’re easier to get a hold of.

Rogaine is an over the counter (OTC) medication, which means it does not require a prescription. We sell it at NorthWestPharmacy.com, or you can purchase it at your local drug store.

Minoxidil is a vasodilator, which means that it widens blood vessels. The theory here is that increased blood supply can stimulate hair growth and reinvigorate shrunken hair follicles. More directly, minoxidil helps lengthen the anagen (growth) phase of the hair. The longer the growth phase, the longer it will take for the hair to naturally shed (people typically lose between 50 and 150 hairs per day — this is completely normal).

Propecia, on the other hand, works completely differently. Finasteride is a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor and is also known as a dihydrotestosterone blocker. This class of medication is often used for hair loss but is also appropriate for treating an enlarged prostate.

In fact, the first approved use of finasteride was a different medication called Proscar, made by the same drug manufacturer. Proscar was created to treat enlarged prostate, and it was discovered during clinical trials that hair growth was a (fortunate) unintended side effect.

Obviously, this isn’t the first medication with such a background — Viagra was famously being tested as a medication to treat heart conditions. When trial participants began reporting erections, researchers realized that they had an entirely different medication on their hands (though it’s prescribed in a much smaller dose).

The other major difference between Rogaine and Propecia is the method in which they are applied/used. While Rogaine is a topical medication (applied twice daily), Propecia is an oral pill that you take once per day. Both medications need to be taken on a consistent basis, otherwise their effectiveness declines.

Does Propecia Actually Work?

The good news is that Propecia is actually quite effective at treating hair loss in men. Finasteride is a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor, which is key in this case. 5-alpha reductase is an enzyme that actually creates a byproduct of testosterone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

DHT is believed to be the main cause of male pattern baldness. This testosterone byproduct causes hair follicles to shrink over time, which leaves less room to physically grow hair. For example, if each follicle produces five hairs, but the follicle begins to shrink, it may only produce two hairs.

Male pattern baldness occurs when hair follicles are more sensitive to DHT, and for whatever reason, these follicles tend to be located on the top and crown of the head. (Hence, the “pattern” in male pattern baldness.)

By blocking DHT, Propecia is able to not only slow the progression of hair loss, but even regrow hair in follicles that had previously been inactive. Of course, results vary from person to person, but for the most part, men have positive experiences with Propecia.

During clinical trials, 65% of participants reported "substantial" hair growth while taking the medication. When DHT levels were decreased by 60%, 86% of participants experienced slowed progression of hair loss.

Propecia must be taken regularly in order to remain effective, and some evidence has even suggested that its efficacy increases with time. One study showed that Propecia was more effective in year five than it was in year one. Given that the medication reduces the amount of DHT in the system, this makes sense.

Why is Propecia So Expensive?

The price of brand name Propecia has come down in recent years, but it’s still significantly more expensive in the United States than it is at a Canadian pharmacy online or at international online pharmacies. This is likely to be the case for every single brand name medication for the foreseeable future.

There are multiple reasons for the cost differential, and none of them are simple. In most other countries, the government negotiates or regulates prices with pharmaceutical companies in order to find fair prices that most people can reasonably afford. In the United States, pharmaceutical companies are allowed to charge whatever they see fit.

In many cases, the cost of research and development is cited as the reason medication is so expensive, but the reality of the matter is that there’s no way to prove this is the case — especially when prices are lower in every other country.

In theory, prices are high to encourage innovation. If pharmaceutical companies are flush with cash, they can take that money and put it back into research and development. And if they were doing that, perhaps it would lessen the sting — not that it would be more accessible or affordable, but perhaps consumers would understand why.

According to a study from the Boston University School of Public Health, pharmaceutical companies aren’t spending nearly what they claim to be on research and development. While the industry as a whole tends to boast that 18-20% of their revenue goes to research and development, the study found that it was closer to 11% and that they were spending about three times as much on marketing.

And truly, you’d have a hard time convincing Americans to feel sorry for pharmaceutical companies when the top dogs are making billions of dollars each year and their CEOs are making tens of millions.

According to an analysis carried out for Reuters in 2015, U.S. consumers pay about three times more than Brits pay for the exact same medication. Furthermore, U.S. consumers pay about six times more than Brazilians and a whopping 16 times more than the country with the lowest price analyzed for the report (usually, India).

How Much Does Propecia Cost?

Now that we’ve covered why drugs are always more expensive in the United States, let’s talk concrete numbers for Propecia.

In the U.S., you can expect to pay about $120.00 for a one-month supply of brand name Propecia ($4.00).

At NorthWestPharmacy.com, we sell a 28-day supply starting at $67.00 ($2.39 per pill).

Why Isn’t Propecia Approved for Female Hair Loss?

If you’re looking for a prescription medication for female hair loss, you’re likely frustrated. It’s far more socially acceptable for men to go bald than it is for women to go bald — women are criticized for cutting their hair too short, so being bald opens doors for additional ridicule and bullying.

Many women who experience hair loss choose to wear wigs or use hair extensions (if they still have enough hair to hide them), but others are choosing to normalize androgenic alopecia. Notably, Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley has gone completely bald (from androgenic alopecia) and has chosen to use her public platform to raise awareness.

Propecia is a great solution for men experiencing male pattern baldness who have not had success with more topical solutions. However, a similar — or even remotely comparable — oral prescription solution isn’t currently available for women.

At this time, Propecia is not approved for use in women, and while some believe it could theoretically work (the research is debated), studies have thus far been insufficient to prove that it’s safe for use in women.

Let’s start first with application. If DHT is what causes male pattern baldness, then Propecia would have to also have to affect this enzyme in women. The trouble there is that women naturally have less testosterone than men do, so their bodies won’t have as much DHT in the first place.

Therefore, its efficacy is more questionable. While some experts believe that Propecia should work on women, studies have not come to that conclusion. A 2016 study of 137 postmenopausal women with mild-to-moderate female pattern baldness could not find a significant difference between the group that received active finasteride (1 mg) and those who received the placebo, even one year after starting treatment.

Finally, Propecia is believed to have teratogenic effects, which means that they may cause birth defects in fetuses. This is not proven and is unlikely to ever be fully tested because as a (completely fair and ethical) rule, drugs are not tested on pregnant women.

Many women experience some form of female pattern hair loss during their lifetimes. Risk increases with age, particularly around menopause because hormones are shifting so dramatically. There is also a genetic component.

But there are also many possible reasons that a woman experiences thinning hair, so a doctor will look at the pattern of hair loss, as well as other possible explanations before diagnosing someone with pattern baldness. Female pattern baldness typically begins at the place where hair is parted, and then continues from that point. It’s rare for women to go completely bald because of female pattern baldness.

In order for a female Propecia-equivalent to come to market, the reason for female pattern baldness must be determined. And because there are so many reasons that women may lose their hair otherwise (age, endocrine disorders, autoimmune disorders), many other factors must be ruled out first. Many women treat hair thinning through natural methods.

Getting More Affordable Hair Loss Medication

If you’re struggling to find cheaper prescription medication for hair loss, we can help. At NorthWestPharmacy.com, we’re able to sell you Propecia at a lower price because we have access to safe and affordable sources of it. Being an Canadian drugstore and international online pharmacy means we can sell medication cheaper — and in fact, we guarantee that we’ll have the lowest price out there, regardless of the medication you’re looking for.

We completely understand that Americans tend to be wary of online international pharmacies, so if you’re feeling that way, know that we’re cognizant of it. If this is your first time seriously considering making a purchase, we’d love the opportunity to earn your trust and your business.

First, let us assure you that safety and accuracy are the most important aspects of our business. We want you to get the lowest possible price, obviously, but we would never sacrifice your health or safety in order to do so. We guarantee that we’ll find you the lowest price on the medication you need, and if you find it cheaper elsewhere, we’ll beat it.

You can call and talk to a pharmacist any time that our call center is open — seven days a week — and ask questions about your specific prescription, possible contraindications, potential dietary restrictions due to the medication itself, and anything else you can think of.

More than any other aspect of our business, we’re very proud of our online pharmacy customer service. We have over 400,000 customer reviews written by satisfied customers who come back to us every few months for their prescription drug needs. You can read their testimonials on Shopper Approved and Trust Pilot, where we have stellar online Canadian pharmacy ratings and reviews.

When you’re ready, please give us a call at 1-866-539-5330, or you can email us if you’d prefer to ask you questions that way. We look forward to hearing from you!

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