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Doctors may prescribe finasteride to treat an enlarged prostate or male pattern hair loss. It is available to buy from some online pharmacies but requires a prescription. It carries a warning, as it might cause high-grade prostate cancer, although this is rare.

This article explores the uses of finasteride and some safety considerations. It will also look at some brands that manufacture this medication and alternative treatments.

Several telehealth providers and online pharmacies offer finasteride for purchase online. However, people will need to have a current prescription before they can buy the drug. Some companies may offer online consultations with doctors to provide a prescription.

Finasteride is a prescription drug that comes as an oral tablet, which means people take it by mouth. It is available as both a generic and a brand-name drug. Finasteride is the generic term for the drug, and the brand names are Proscar and Propecia.

Proscar and Propecia are available in different strengths. Proscar is available in 5 milligrams (mg) strength, and Propecia is available in 1 mg strength.

Finasteride is a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor that binds to the 5-alpha reductase enzyme and prevents it from converting testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). The gonads and adrenal glands in the body produce androgens, which form testosterone. 5-alpha reductase enzymes transform testosterone into DHT.

DHT contributes towards the formation of male genitals, male hair patterns, and prostate growth.

Doctors may prescribe finasteride to treat an enlarged prostate or male pattern hair loss.

Finasteride can reduce the symptoms of an enlarged prostate, or benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). These symptoms include frequent or painful urination. Finasteride works by reducing the amounts of DHT in the body, which is the hormone that stimulates prostate growth.

Taking finasteride in combination with doxazosin, another drug that can reduce symptoms of an enlarged prostate, may prevent the need for surgery, such as prostatectomy. Doctors may also recommend doxazosin to treat high blood pressure and other conditions.

Doctors may prescribe finasteride to treat male pattern hair loss (androgenetic alopecia) in males. The medication promotes hair growth, as it blocks the body’s production of DHT, which causes hair follicles to shrink.

Learn more about prostate surgery here.

Before taking finasteride, a person should talk with their doctor about potential side effects, increases in health risks, and interactions with other supplements or medication.

Side effects

Finasteride may cause the following side effects:

Cancer risk and erectile dysfunction

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that finasteride and other 5-alpha reductase inhibitors can cause a 50% reduction in prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels within 6 months. PSA is a protein that cancerous and noncancerous tissues in the prostate gland produce. It is also present in semen.

The FDA states that, according to trials, finasteride decreased the overall number of prostate cancer diagnoses. However, they add that it may increase the risk of developing high-grade prostate cancer, although this is rare. The labels of these drugs now carry a warning to this effect.

Additionally, researchers of a 2019 study note that finasteride may increase the chance of developing erectile dysfunction (ED). They found that some people with BPH who took finasteride experienced worsening symptoms of ED.

The study produced mixed results with participants who took finasteride for male pattern hair loss. There is some evidence that finasteride can cause side effects, such as ED, male infertility, ejaculation problems, and loss of libido in people with male pattern hair loss.

However, the researchers state that there is currently insufficient evidence to prove the relationship between finasteride and ED. Scientists need to conduct further research to investigate this link.

Interactions

Individuals should always tell their doctor about any medications, vitamins, or herbs that they are taking. Doctors may need to change the dose of any prescription medication and monitor people for any additional side effects.

Pregnancy

Doctors only prescribe finasteride to males. People who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or chestfeeding, should not handle finasteride tablets, particularly if they are crushed or broken, as ingesting the drug may harm the fetus.

If this occurs, the person should clean the area that came into contact with finasteride with soap and water and contact their doctor immediately. Children should not use finasteride.

There are several telehealth providers and online pharmacies that offer prescription finasteride.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried any of these products. All information presented here is purely research-based.

Blink Health

Blink Health is a company that collaborates with more than 35,000 pharmacies across the United States. It states it can help people save up to 80% on prescription medications.

The company offers finasteride tablets for people with hair loss and enlarged prostates.

People using Blink Health’s services for the first time require a valid prescription. However, the company states that it can help those who do not have a prescription connect with a licensed doctor for an online visit.

Individuals can also renew their prescriptions through the company’s website.

Hims

Hims is a telehealth company that offers consultations, personalized treatment plans, and support groups for males. It helps individuals with sexual health concerns and other conditions such as hair loss, premature ejaculation, and allergies.

The company states that a person may need to attend an online consultation with their doctor for prescription medications. The doctor may prescribe finasteride as a result of this consultation.

Hims’ services are not available to individuals who are under 18 years of age. Additionally, some products may only be available to those aged 21 years and older.

Roman

Roman is a telehealth platform that sells products that may help adults with hair loss and sexual health conditions.

People will need a prescription from one of Roman’s doctors to purchase medication. First, they have to book an online visit with one of Roman’s doctors to discuss their health concerns. Then, the doctor may issue a prescription depending on the individual’s symptoms.

The company also offers free shipping and unlimited follow-up visits.

Roman states that they do not replace a primary care doctor. They recommend that people keep their doctors up to date with their care in the Roman network.

REX MD

People can book an online consultation with REX MD’s doctors, who may prescribe finasteride for their condition.

REX MD states that it works with GoGoMeds. It may offer the medication at a lower price than similar products that people may find at a traditional pharmacy.

The company says that they offer fast, discreet shipping and ongoing medical support.

Recent research found that people with hair loss had a nutritional deficiency of amino acids and proteins. However, the researchers note that there is limited evidence on whether dietary deficiencies can cause hair loss.

Another study notes that iron deficiency can lead to hair loss. Researchers state that people who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet may have a higher chance of developing iron deficiency than those who eat meat.

People who eat meat tend to consume more iron, both heme and non-heme iron. People who follow a plant-based diet only consume non-heme iron. The body absorbs heme iron at a faster rate than non-heme iron.

Hair loss can also occur when a person experiences stress, is taking certain medications, or has another health condition.

Medications that may cause hair loss include:

People with BPH and hair loss may consider other options.

BPH

Doctors may prescribe:

  • Alpha-1 blockers: This medication relaxes the muscles of the urethra and the neck of the bladder to improve urine flow. Alpha-1 blockers include doxazosin, prazosin, and alfuzosin.
  • Phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) inhibitors: This medication relaxes the muscles in the urinary tract to relieve BPH symptoms. Doctors may also prescribe PDE5 inhibitors for ED symptoms.

Hair loss

Doctors may recommend other options for hair loss. These include:

  • Minoxidil: This medication is available without prescription and comes as a lotion or foam. It stimulates hair growth and is more effective in people under 40 years of age.
  • Transplantation: During this procedure, the surgeon removes hair follicles from the back of the head that is resistant to DHT and moves them to the front or top of the head. Hair that is not resistant to DHT will look thinner than DHT-resistant hair.

Finasteride can reduce the symptoms of BPH and treat male pattern hair loss. Individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid finasteride tablets as this drug can harm the fetus.

People should tell their doctor if they are taking other medications, supplements, or herbs, as they can interact with finasteride.

Several telehealth providers and online pharmacies offer finasteride tablets for purchase, and they may also offer online consultations and ongoing follow-up visits. However, people will need a prescription before they can purchase finasteride.

Finasteride carries a warning that it may cause high-grade prostate cancer. Always talk with a doctor before taking finasteride.

Healthcare professionals may recommend other treatments than finasteride, such as alpha-1 blockers, phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors, minoxidil, or hair transplantation.