Rogaine more effective in younger men

ON CALL

February 01, 1994|By Dr. Simeon Margolis | Dr. Simeon Margolis,Special to The Sun

Q: At age 25 I am rapidly losing my hair, just like my father and brothers. My wife and I have seen advertisements for the use of Rogaine in the treatment of baldness. We would like to learn more about its effectiveness.

A: When the drug minoxidil was first used to treat high blood pressure, it was noted that about 80 percent of patients developed an overgrowth of hair. A logical extension of this observation was to test the topical application of minoxidil (Rogaine) to determine whether it should stimulate hair growth at sites of hair loss in the scalp. A large study was con

ducted in about 2,300 men who had male pattern alopecia

(baldness), marked by hair loss at the crown and frontal area ("receding hairline").

After a period of applying either Rogaine or a placebo to the scalp, the effectiveness of the drug was evaluated in two ways: by counting the number of hairs and by the person's perception of the improvement in his appearance.

This initial study showed that Rogaine increased the hair count by an average of two- to three-fold. In this and subsequent trials, about one third of men felt that the medication produced a good to excellent response.

The best results are in younger men who have lost the least amount of hair over a period of less than five years. The drug must be tried for four to 12 months to determine whether the Rogaine treatment will be successful. Rogaine must be applied twice daily, seven days a week.

If the Rogaine is stopped, regrown hair is lost over a period of two to six months. Side effects are uncommon and are limited to local reactions -- itching, dryness and scaling. In one study the local skin changes led to discontinuance of the treatment in 7.5 percent of the subjects. Although it seems unlikely that the medication will cause serious effects on blood pressure or the heart (because so little of the drug gets into the bloodstream), this question was not adequately answered in the initial trial.

Dr. Margolis is professor of medicine and biological chemistry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

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