Why doctors are prescribing a cheap, well-known drug as an off-label cure for hair loss

Minoxidil is not a new drug treatment, not even for hair loss.

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Monday, August 22, 2022
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The New York Times reported that doctors are increasingly recommending Minoxidil to patients experiencing hair loss and have seen impressive results.

Doctors are increasingly turning to a well-known drug as an off-label, low-cost treatment for patients experiencing hair loss.

Erika Murawski, 24, began losing her hair in high school and said she tried everything to cure her receding hairline.

"It's just awful for my mental health. I didn't even want to leave the house," she said.

Then one day a doctor prescribed her minoxidil, a medication designed for high blood pressure, and her results were life-changing.

"It's been a year now, and I feel like a different person. I feel like myself again. It feels amazing to have my hair back," Murawski said.

Minoxidil is not a new drug treatment, not even for hair loss. It's the active ingredient in Rogaine, but instead of applying directly to the scalp, dermatologists are prescribing very low-dose pills.

Over the last few years, as success stories have spread, doctors have been increasingly prescribing minoxidil orally, as the New York Times recently reported.

"Oral can be given to achieve hair regrowth at doses far below what we think of being the proper dose for the treatment of high blood pressure, said Dr. Brett King, who prescribed minoxidil to Murawski.

Dr. King said potential side effects include fatigue and dizziness. It may also lower patients' blood pressure, what it's designed to do.

He said the oral treatment works best in the early stages of hair loss, but even the success stories are only anecdotal.

Minoxidil for hair loss has not been studied in a well-designed, randomized trial. The drug is FDA approved but only as a blood-pressure medication.

"What's the magic? What's the mechanism? If we could harness that and target that mechanism, we might be able to do even better," Dr. King said.