It’s hard to argue the fact that hair loss is a rather unpleasant health condition. It sure isn’t a very serious or dangerous one, since losing hair doesn’t affect the human health in a considerable way. But in a society where the visual aspect plays such an important role, hair loss is often regarded as …
It’s hard to argue the fact that hair loss is a rather unpleasant health condition. It sure isn’t a very serious or dangerous one, since losing hair doesn’t affect the human health in a considerable way. But in a society where the visual aspect plays such an important role, hair loss is often regarded as an unattractive feature, which can even be considered as a sign of poor health. Today it’s clear that hair loss is rarely associated with serious health problems (unless it’s something really bad like cancer or severe hormonal changes). But the negative associations still persist and can lead to serious psychological discomfort. Fortunately, there’s a drug called Propecia that can help most men facing hair loss problems. It has been around for a long time now and is taken for granted these days. But its history is rather interesting and has so many surprises that it’s a real wonder that we have such an effective drug on the shelves today.
It all started in the early 1970’s, when a dedicated researcher, Julianne Imperato-McGinley, was doing a field study in the Caribbean region aimed at a very localized phenomenon of intersex children. These children were born without any prominent sexual traits and were usually grown as girls until reaching the age of puberty, when male sexual organs started to developed. Upon reaching adulthood, these individuals were showing several interesting traits, such as smaller prostate size and virtually no instances of hair loss even in senior ages, among other things. The researcher has studied numerous cases of this phenomenon and upon comparing them realized that the primary cause for it was a genetic mutation that affected male hormone metabolism, preventing the conversion of testosterone into its other forms. This conclusion was presented in a paper on a very specialized conference in the USA and it would be forgotten, if it wouldn’t cross the eyes of Roy Vagelos, who was the senior researcher for the Merck corporation at that time.
Mr Vagelos instantly realized the potential benefit of having such a medication that would mimic the genetic mutation and prevent testosterone metabolism in grown men. At that time there were no effective solutions for a rather widespread problem of benign prostatic hyperplasia, so developing a medication based on the approach described in Imperato’s paper seemed like a very good perspective. That’s why the Merck corporation has started working on such a drug. But it took them over a decade and countless trials to get to the final solution, which was Propecia. It took several more years to study and test it appropriately until it was finally approved by the FDA for treating prostate problems in 1992. But what about hair loss, you may ask?
The hair loss aspect outlined in Imperato’s report was simply forgotten about for a long period of time, until the first waves of feedback on the new drug came. Many men who have started taking Propecia have observed that their hair loss has stopped and even reversed after a long treatment course. This of course, was instantly taken account of, and the Merck corporation started reviewing the drug to serve a new purpose. The process was rather successful, since the FDA has approved Propecia as the first drug for hair loss in 1997. And since then it became one of the most popular and really effective solutions for the problem of hair loss in men.