Daily pill that could stop men going bald

by BEEZY MARSH, Daily Mail

The first anti-baldness pill clinically proven to prevent hair loss and boost growth is launched in Britain today.

In a controlled two-year study, five out of six men who took the once-a- day drug Propecia stopped losing any hair.

A total of 66 per cent actually started growing new hair over their bald spots. By comparison, almost three quarters of men taking a dummy pill suffered further hair loss over the same period.

There are no plans to make Propecia, which will cost around £30 for a month's supply, available on the NHS. GPs will be able to write private prescriptions if they feel the treatment is suitable but patients must pay for it.

Research has found that an enzyme which acts on the male hormone testosterone is responsible for hair loss, which affects 6.5million men in the UK.

The drug, hailed as a miracle cure, works by blocking the action of the enzyme and preventing further hair loss, in some cases allowing regrowth. Propecia has been available in the U.S. since 1998 and is taken by 800,000 men in 38 countries. Some side effects have been reported, but only in a tiny minority.

A total of 1.8 per cent suffered decreased libido on Propecia - but so did 1.3 per cent taking a placebo pill. Erectile dysfunction emerged in 1.3 per cent of men, compared with

0.7 per cent on placebo.

Andrew Messenger, consultant dermatologist at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, said: 'This is the first oral treatment to be licensed in this country and the results can be very positive. It can stop the hair loss in a large proportion of cases and two thirds may see visible regrowth.'

Dr Ian Banks, a GP and representative of the Men's Health Forum, said the psychological impact of hair loss, particularly on young men, should not be underestimated.

In a survey commissioned by Merck, Sharpe and Dohme, which manufactures the drug, 39 per cent of the 623 men questioned admitted they were anxious about the prospect of hair loss.

This fear is twice as prevalent in younger men aged 18 to 24, who worry more about going bald than putting on weight, developing wrinkles or going grey.

Dr Banks said: 'British men are notoriously bad at going to their GP and with hair loss they fear they will not be taken seriously.

'This is despite the fact that many are depressed and feel their relationships, and even their career prospects, are being affected by going bald.

'Propecia may offer a clinical solution and that has to be good news.'

There is no limit to how long the drug can be taken for, but once the pill is stopped hair loss may start again.

Neil Garbutt, who was 27 when he noticed the signs of hair loss, was involved in trials of Propecia for five years. 'First the patch at the back stopped getting any bigger and then, after a few months, it gradually closed up completely,' said Mr Garbutt, a telecommunications firm manager from London.

'The hair on my temples also stopped receding and my hair grew thicker and slightly darker. I suffered no side effects.'

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