Questionable baldness remedies have been peddled since the beginning of medicine. According to Pliny (23-79 A.D.), ashes of seahorse could cure baldness. Almost 2000 years later, the British Medical Association warned the public of the increasing “number of preparations put forward for the cure of baldness,” particularly those which “are not applied locally but taken internally.” The purported active ingredient? “[H]aemoglobin.” (see Secret Remedies (1909), page 114).
While the medicinal use of a seahorse or dried blood matter may sound fanciful to modern ears, one has to wonder whether today’s public is any less credulous: Worldwide, consumers have spent over $400 million per year on a modern baldness remedy known by the trade name Propecia (finasteride). Has science finally triumphed over a medical condition that has persisted through millennia? Today’s consumers might rationally believe that its has, given that Propecia is FDA-approved for the treatment of alopecia (baldness). FDA-approved remedies must, according to federal law (21 U.S.C. § 355(d)), prove their efficacy in well-controlled, clinical investigations.
Yet one need only walk through a crowded street to see that, if a baldness cure has truly arrived, a surprising number of people have not availed themselves of it. Is Propecia, then, not effective? Let us take a look at the official data. Read More