Propecia: Is it dangerous to women?

What is it?
Chances are, you've seen the commercials for Propecia, the newest treatment for male-pattern baldness. Along with all the glowing testimony from men who say it has changed their lives comes a warning that it is for men only and that women should not even touch the tablets. Sounds pretty scary, doesn't it? You may have nightmares about waking up one morning with two heads if your husband even brings the stuff into the house. Well, worry no longer. The truth about Propecia is here.

Propecia, chemical name finasteride, is produced by Merck and was cleared by the FDA in late 1997 for sale in the U.S. It is available only by prescription to male patients.

How does it work?
Propecia works by blocking the conversion of testosterone to an alternative form of testosterone called dihydro-testosterone (DHT), a chemical found in the hair follicles that may block hair growth. A study conducted by Merck found that hair follicles on bald skin contained more DHT than hair follicles on hairy skin. This is the basis for using Propecia. If testosterone can be blocked from being converted into DHT, this may help hair follicles to produce hair.

Should women be concerned?
When tested on rats, Propecia caused birth defects in male fetuses when a very large amount of Propecia was administered to the rats (about 5 to 5,000 times the dose recommended for humans). Propecia caused abnormalities in the genitalia of male fetuses when the pregnant mother underwent exposure. In male fetuses the conversion of testosterone to DHT is needed to form their male organs. The defect is called hypospadis. That is when the urethra opens onto the undersurface of the penis, instead of the end. This is the basis for all the warnings to women about staying far away from Propecia. The concern is that just slight exposure may harm a male fetus.

As a result of these studies, women are warned not to use this drug to treat baldness, whether or not they are pregnant. Women are warned against touching broken or crushed tablets of Propecia, as there is the remote possibility that they may absorb some of the active ingredient into their system. To guard against such problems, the tablets have a coating on them, so as long as the tablet is whole, it is unlikely that a woman will be putting her unborn child in danger.

The main concern about women being exposed to this drug is that they may be pregnant, even if they do not think they are. Contact with this drug will not harm future fetuses. It is as yet unknown if Finasteride (the active ingredient in Propecia) can be passed to a baby via the mother's milk, so it is a good idea to steer clear of it not just during pregnancy, but also while breast feeding.

The Bottom Line
In short, you do not need to be overly concerned that something awful will happen to you if you are within a mile of Propecia tablets. However, keep in mind that caution is a good policy.

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Copyright © 1999 GenneX Healthcare Technologies,Inc.


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