Proscar vs Propecia: Which Is Most Effective?

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Want to know what the difference is between Proscar and Propecia and which one is the most effective for treating hair loss?

Both drugs were originally derived from research into the treatment of an enlarged prostate and use a dose of the compound, finasteride that acts to inhibit hormones in the body. During trials to test the efficacy of finasteride in shrinking the prostate, it was found that those men taking part that suffered from hereditary hair loss regrew hair. As a result, the compound was isolated, rebranded and marketed as a hair loss product.

In this guide, we take a look at the differences between two well-known products available on the market that are based on finasteride; Propecia and Proscar.

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A Brief History: Proscar to Propecia

Following research in the seventies into the gender development of children born intersex, it was found that the drug, developed by pharmaceutical company Merck, finasteride could reduce the efficacy of the body’s response to the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and thereby had a positive effect on patients suffering from an enlarged prostate. However, this hormone also directly influences the rate and onset of androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness).

Approved by the FDA in 1992, Merck began marketing finasteride under the name ‘Proscar’ at a dose of 5mg. Whilst trials had shown some early evidence to suggest that the drug could help prevent, delay and reverse male pattern baldness, use in the general population proved far more wide-reaching. As a result, Merck had a lower dose of finasteride approved to specifically promoted as a hair loss drug and, in 1997, Propecia was released to market at a level of 1mg dose.

propecia hair loss tablets

What’s the difference between Propecia and Proscar? Image via

So, What’s the Difference Between Proscar & Propecia?

Both Proscar and Propecia contain finasteride and are manufactured by Merck, however the crucial difference is the dose and the availability.

Proscar contains 5mg of finasteride and is only available as a prescription drug. It’s intended use (at the higher dose) is used to treat Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (enlarged prostate).

Propecia on the other hand only contains 1mg of finasteride and is available over the counter and is specifically intended (at the lower dose) to treat androgenic alopecia.

hair loss proscar propecia

Reverse male pattern baldness with finasteride found in Propecia/Proscar. Image via Flickr.

The other major difference is in the price. Because Proscar is an older drug, it is cheaper to get hold of (outside the USA) and users report doing so to save money and splitting the tablet into five to be able to administer the same dose as Propecia.

The Science Behind Finasteride

Finasteride works by specifically inhibiting the 5-alpha reductase enzyme. Responsible for converting testosterone to DHT, this enzyme plays a crucial role in gender development in the foetus as well as during puberty. However, it also continues to play an important part of how other masculine traits develop as we age, including male pattern baldness.

Research has shown that two thirds of men with mild to moderate hair loss, who took 1mg of finasteride daily, regrew some hair. Those men in the control group all lost hair.

Benefits of Proscar & Propecia

Both Proscar and Propecia have been found to be effective at delaying, preventing and (in some cases) reversing the effects of male pattern baldness. However, additional benefits can be derived from Proscar, namely the shrinkage of an enlarged prostate.

thick hair with propecia

A full head of thick hair could be a reality with Propecia. Image via Flickr.

Side Effects of Proscar & Propecia

Due to the effect that finasteride has on the conversion of testosterone to DHT there are a few side effects which may occur as a result of using either Proscar or Propecia; though the extent of these side effects is largely correlative to the dose of finasteride.

Common side effects include:

  • Decreased libido
  • Problems maintaining an erection
  • Abnormal ejaculation
  • Infertility
  • Increase in breast tissue mass
  • Depression

In some cases, the use of finasteride can cause allergies and it is important to discontinue use and talk to your medical practitioner if you experience any signs of an allergy. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include:

  • Itching
  • Swelling
  • Rash
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing

It’s important to talk to your oncologist if you suffer from prostate cancer as using Proscar or Propecia can affect the results of your blood tests.

Lastly, Propecia and Proscar should only be used by men over the age of 18 and is not suitable for women or children.

Proscar vs Propecia: Which is More Effective?

Contrary to popular belief, a higher dosage of finasteride is no more effective at controlling androgenic alopecia than a lower dose. In fact, due to the fact that a higher dose is more likely to result in side effects, it is considered that a lower dose (Propecia) is safer.

However, in concluding, any source of generic finasteride (at a dose of 1mg) should also produce the same results as Propecia as there are no additional active ingredients in this product.

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