Propecia vs Finasteride

Propecia vs Finasteride

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At a Glance

  • Propecia/finasteride is used to treat male pattern baldness.
  • Propecia is the brand name of the generic medicine finasteride.
  • There is no difference in the active ingredient or strength, however, some of the non-active ingredients may differ depending on the manufacturer.
  • You need a prescription for either medicine- from your doctor or via an online consultation.

 

What is Propecia/ finasteride used for?

The brand Propecia, and its generic equivalent finasteride, are used in the treatment of male pattern baldness (also known as androgenetic alopecia). They are most effective in men with mild to moderate, but not complete, hair loss.  

Higher doses of finasteride are used to treat prostate problems in men, so it is important to take the correct daily dosage (1mg).

In the UK, these medicines are not normally available on the NHS, so you would need a private prescription from your doctor or via our online consultation.

How does Propecia/ finasteride work?

In male pattern hair loss, the scalp contains miniaturized hair follicles and an increased amount of the androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT).  By blocking the conversion of testosterone to DHT, Propecia and finasteride effectively inhibit a process which causes the miniaturization of the hair follicles in the scalp, causing a reversal of the balding process.

Is finasteride same as Propecia?

To understand the answer to this question, we must first answer another: What is the difference between brand name medicines and generic medicines?

When a pharmaceutical company researches, develops, manufactures and markets a new medicine, they adopt a branded name for the medicine and apply for a patent which allows them exclusivity over the medicine until the patent runs out.

When the patent is nearing its expiration date, other manufacturers can apply for a licence to make and distribute their own versions, a generic version, of the medicine.

With all the hard work of research and development already done for them, these generics manufacturers are able to offer the non-branded equivalents of the medicine at a much cheaper price.  The competition between these companies drives the price down even further.

The Medicines and Health products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK, and the Food and Drug Administration in the US are responsible for making sure that the quality and efficacy of the generic products made by these different manufacturers is the same as the original branded medicine.

As a result, generic medicines are exactly the same as the original brand in terms of the medicine, strength, indication (what it is being used for), quality and route of administration.  As these medicines are of the same efficacy but cheaper, the NHS encourages doctors to prescribe generic medicines over branded medicines, if a generic is available.

It is important to note, however, that although generic medicines have the same active ingredients as the original brand, often the non-active ingredients, or excipients, can be different.  This is why different versions of the same generic medicine often differ in flavour, colour, shape or size to one another.

As the active ingredient and strength are exactly the same, these differences in non-active ingredients should not have any adverse effect on a person’s treatment however theoretically it is possible.  For example, some medicines in the UK, such as those for epilepsy, are prescribed by brand as even slight changes in how quickly a medicine is absorbed can have an effect on certain patients’ treatment.

A good example of the brand vs generic scenario is when Pfizer created Viagra for erectile dysfunction.  It a very well known and recognised brand name of the medicine sildenafil. This gave Pfizer the chance to successfully market the medicine under the name Viagra, to differentiate their original product from the generic versions of sildenafil which would become available after the patent expired.  Even though many manufacturers make sildenafil now, this treatment is still best known under the brand Viagra, as a result of Pfizer’s very successful marketing campaign.

So to answer the original question- is finasteride the same as Propecia?  The answer is yes. However, as Propecia is the branded version of the medicine, it is more expensive than the generic equivalents.

How long does Propecia/finasteride take to work?


At the recommended dose of one tablet (1mg) daily, the treatment should take between 3 to 6 months to start working.  If there is no effect after 12 months, the treatment should be discontinued.

Continuous once daily use is required to sustain benefit.  If treatment is stopped, the beneficial effects start to wear off after 6 months with a return to normal levels of hair loss by 9 to 12 months.  

What are the side effects of Propecia/ finasteride?

The MHRA has advised that patients who develop depression or suicidal thoughts whilst taking Propecia or finasteride should stop the treatment immediately and inform a healthcare professional.

Common or very common

  • Sexual dysfunction (including erectile dysfunction and ejaculation disorder)

Uncommon

  • Breast abnormalities (swelling or tenderness); skin reactions (including swelling)

Frequency unknown

  • Angioedema (swelling); depression; male infertility; palpitations; testicular pain

 

How much does Propecia/ finasteride cost?

Propecia
1 month supply 28 tablets £ 41.65
2 month supply 56 tablets £ 80.95
3 month supply 84 tablets £ 107.65
6 month supply 168 tablets £ 210.25

Finasteride
1 month supply 28 tablets £ 15.99
2 month supply 56 tablets £ 26.99
3 month supply 84 tablets £ 39.99
6 month supply 168 tablets £ 65.00

There is no difference between Propecia and finasteride in terms of their strengths and active ingredients.  As the non-active ingredients can vary depending on the manufacturer, there may be a subtle difference in side-effects, however, the main effect on hair loss is unlikely to vary.  With up to 9 out of 10 men experiencing positive results, Propecia and finasteride remain an effective treatment for male pattern hair loss.