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Finasteride for Hair Loss: Do I Need A Prescription?

By Amanda Vining
Reviewed by Jennifer T. Haley, MD, FAAD on February 24, 2021
The hair loss medication finasteride is a prescription drug that may help reverse symptoms of hair loss.

If you’ve watched your hair slowly thin, you may worry that baldness is inevitable — especially if hair loss runs in your family. But finasteride, a hair loss prevention and treatment tablet, may help slow or even reverse the damage of hair loss. Finasteride is available under the brand name Propecia which works by slowing down dihydrotestosterone (DHT). 

DHT is a hormone and a derivative of testosterone that attacks the hair follicles. In some cases, this attack is the cause of male- and female-pattern baldness but finasteride can block up to 70 percent of the production of DHT, William Yates, MD, a board-certified hair loss expert in Illinois tells WebMD Connect to Care.

Who Can Take Finasteride for Hair Loss? 

Originally developed to treat an enlarged prostate, finasteride reduces or blocks the effects of DHT on hair follicles. This can slow the damage of male- and female-pattern baldness, treating hair loss in men and women. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), finasteride may damage the developing genitals of male fetuses. For this reason, women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant should not take finasteride. In fact, it is rarely prescribed for pre-menopausal women.

Since finasteride works on DHT levels, it is not used to treat other causes of baldness such as cancer-related hair loss, hair loss because of an autoimmune disease, or other causes of a receding hairline

Do You Need a Prescription? 

Finasteride is only available via prescription. 

While it is generally safe, it can cause some side effects. According to a 2012 review published in the Indian Dermatology Online Journal, a small number — 2.1 percent to 3.8 percent — of men experience sexual side effects such as erectile dysfunction. Gynecomastia, or breast development, and depression have also been rarely associated with oral Finasteride.

The FDA emphasizes that finasteride may also change results on a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, so always tell your doctor if you are taking this drug. 

Does Insurance Cover Finasteride? 

“Insurance never covers hair restoration regardless of the cause,” says Yates. However, for a small number of men, it may be possible to get some insurance coverage. That’s because finasteride can also shrink an enlarged prostate. Men with this condition who also struggle with baldness may be able to get insurance coverage to support prostate health while reaping the side benefits of hair regrowth. 

Get Help Now 

The faster you seek help for hair loss, the easier it is to regrow hair and counteract the effects of DHT. Moreover, some forms of hair loss may be a sign of a serious illness, so it’s important to talk to a doctor before beginning home treatment. Seek medical advice today to begin your journey to a healthier head of hair.