Propecia vs finasteride: What’s the difference?
Dr. Aysha Butt is the Medical Director of FROM MARS, and is a GP Partner at Woodcote NHS Medical Practice.
So, you’ve noticed your hair thinning a bit on top. You’re thinking it’s probably time to do something about it as you’ve read that the earlier you tackle male pattern baldness (MPB) the better. But what’s the difference between the treatments? Which is the best and which should you avoid?
First off, it’s good that you want to do something about it. Secondly, it’s great that you’ve got questions. That way you’ll find the right treatment for you. Let’s get into it and answer one of the biggest questions you’re probably asking. What’s the difference between Propecia and finasteride?
What are Propecia and finasteride?
Propecia and finasteride are prescription treatments for male pattern baldness. They’re both swallowed as a pill (usually daily) and they’re one of the few hair loss treatments scientifically proven to work. They reduce the level of a hormone (DHT) in your scalp that causes male pattern baldness. The stats that you need to know is that they stop hair loss in up to 90% of men and re-grow hair in around 65%.
But what’s the difference between the two? The answer to that is not a lot.
Are Propecia and finasteride the same?
Essentially, yes. Propecia and finasteride are the same hair loss treatment, just with different names. Propecia is the branded form of the medication whilst finasteride is the generic form. It’s called finasteride as that’s the active ingredient in the medication. Sometimes finasteride is also called generic Propecia.
This might be the first time you’ve come across branded and generic medications so we’ll break it down.
Brand vs generic medicines
A branded medication is a version of a drug that’s been given a brand name by the company that makes it. Viagra is a well-known example. The actual drug is called sildenafil, but Viagra is a brand name that Pfizer, the company that makes it has given to sildenafil.
A generic medicine is a legal copy of a branded medication. They have the same active ingredient as the branded version, the same effect, side effects and you take them in the same way. To get the full 101 check out our post on generic medicine vs brand name medicine.
Propecia and finasteride both come as oral pills and in the same strength; 1mg (although finasteride can come in 5mg tablets too). They even come in the same size boxes (usually 28 pills per box). A 1mg pill of Propecia will contain the same active ingredient (finasteride) and the same amount of this ingredient as a 1mg finasteride pill. It should also have the same effect on your hair and the same side effects (if any).
Does generic finasteride work as well as Propecia?
Yes. Even though generic finasteride is cheaper than Propecia, it works just as well. Both finasteride and Propecia are effective treatments to halt male pattern baldness and return lost hair.
Can finasteride and Propecia grow hair?
Yes, finasteride and Propecia can re-grow hair that was lost to male pattern baldness. In one 5-year study of finasteride, 65% of men re-grew hair. Remember finasteride is the active ingredient in Propecia.
Can finasteride and Propecia build muscle?
There’s talk online and off that finasteride and Propecia can help men build muscle. What we do know is that there isn’t too much scientific evidence of this though. Just a handful of studies that report increases in muscle mass, but often these combine finasteride with other substances like testosterone.
In clinical trials finasteride and Propecia were more likely to cause negative side effects on muscles, like pain, stiffness and weakness. So the jury is very much still out on this one. Finasteride and Propecia were developed to fight hair loss, were put though clinical trials to fight hair loss and for now, should only be used to fight hair loss.
Are there any differences between finasteride and Propecia?
Although the two treatments are medically identical, there are a few differences. The most notable of these is price. Generic drugs are usually cheaper than branded drugs. A box of finasteride tablets can be less than half the cost of an equivalent box of Propecia tablets, even though they’re the same strength and have the same number of pills.
Another minor difference is that the two do contain some different non-active ingredients that are used to bind the drugs together into pills. Although most of the non-active ingredients are identical, there are a few differences, but they shouldn’t affect most men who take the medications. In rare instances they could affect you and cause different side effects, for example if you’re allergic to one of them, but this is unlikely.
Other differences are cosmetic, including things like different packaging designs and the look of the pills.
Finasteride vs Propecia – which medication is right for you?
Finding the right medication is always up to you. Some people prefer generic medications as they have the same effect, but for a lower price. Others on the other hand prefer branded medications as they believe that they work better than generic medications. Remember though in terms of the science, both are the same. The preference for branded meds is often just down to that person’s belief system, not a genuine difference between the drugs. The main thing is that whichever one you choose it should have a positive impact on your hair. Now that’s what we’re talking about.