October saw the expiration of the patent on Propecia, a hair loss treatment commonly used by men suffering from male pattern baldness. But what does this mean for pharmacies and, more importantly, those who require this form of medication.
You may be familiar with Propecia already. In the same way that the brand Viagra became synonymous with treating erectile dysfunction through the early part of the 21st century, so Propecia has become the name most commonly associated with treating male pattern baldness.
As of the 11th October 2014, however, Propecia’s patent on this medication expired and an opportunity opened up for rival pharmaceutical firms to promote a different name – that of the active ingredient finasteride 1mg.
Finasteride, also known as ‘generic Propecia’ is now readily available in UK pharmacies alongside the familiar face of Propecia. And as with generic sildenafil – the active ingredient in Viagra – generic finasteride is noticeably cheaper than its more famous alternative.
As Head Pharmacist, Daman Bhamra, says:
“The expiry of Propecia’s patent can be good news to many men suffering distress as a result of male pattern hair loss. As is usually the case when a drug patent expires, the price of Generic Propecia will likely fall over the coming months as more UK pharmaceutical companies start producing Finasteride medications.”
“But as we have seen with Viagra, the expiration of a patent does not mean an end to brand loyalty. Even though a number different pharmaceutical companies can produce drugs that are medically the same, it is not uncommon for patients to continue to use a branded medication at a higher price point simply because their trust in that product has been built over the months or years.”
Finasteride is used to counteract the effects of the male hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which acts on genetically susceptible hair follicles found in the front, top and crown of the scalp. In practice, DHT shortens the growth phase of the hair cycle and causes hair to become increasingly fine until eventually it disappears.
Put simply, finasteride blocks the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone. It is currently produced in tablet form to be ingested orally.
Currently, two other pharmaceutical companies have released finasteride medications since the expiration of the patent – Trent and Actavis. As Daman Bhamra suggests it is often a case personal choice, which product a patient chooses to use, and at Express Pharmacy we are able to deliver both hair loss treatments direct to a patient’s door.
What should I expect to pay for Finasteride?The cost of both branded Propecia and Generic Finasteride may decrease over the coming months. This will largely be due to the number of drug companies who choose to produce the medication and the flexibility of the market.
Currently, finasteride is selling roughly 10% cheaper than branded Propecia, but when Viagra came off patent in 2013 the price continued to drop steadily for some months as an increasing number of companies came into the market. Today, sildenafil can cost as little as a sixth of the price of branded Viagra.
Are Propecia alternatives safe?Yes. If you continue to source your Finasteride 1mg medication through a reputable and registered pharmacy, the quality of the drug is assured regardless of the manufacturer.
It is, however, important to avoid ordering hair loss medication from a questionable source. As with any medication made or distributed without the correct precautions, buying illegal drugs opens up the possibility of questionable ingredients, contamination or incorrect usage guidelines.
Always look for the GPhC logo when ordering Propecia or any other medication.