Heart disease: Hair loss drug finasteride may help reduce risk

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
A blue-tinted x-ray of pills in a bottleShare on Pinterest
The drug finasteride used for hair loss and prostate treatments may also help lower heart disease risk. NICK VEASEY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images
  • Researchers say the hair loss drug finasteride may also help cut down risk of heart disease.
  • They say it lowers the risk by helping to reduce cholesterol levels.
  • Experts note that the potential side effects of the drug treatment make more research necessary.

A drug that puts more hair on one’s head may also make for a stronger heart.

A new study published in the Journal of Lipid Research states that the hair loss drug finasteride, also known by brand names Propecia or Proscar, may also reduce cholesterol and lower a person’s chance at developing heart disease.

The study looked at men participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2009 and 2016.

Finasteride is typically taken to treat male baldness and benign prostatic hyperplasia, so women were excluded from the analyses. Men with prostate inflammation and infection as well as having been diagnosed or self-reported with prostate cancer were also excluded from the study.

Only 10 of the 165 men in the survey taking finasteride were less than 50 years old, so the researchers only looked at men older than 50.

The researchers said their study did have limitations in that the research describes parallelisms between mice and humans on plasma cholesterol in response to finasteride, but the results must be interpreted with caution due to, at least in part, interspecific differences on lipoprotein metabolism.

Also, of nearly 4,800 survey respondents meeting the general health criteria for inclusion in the analysis, only 155 men reported using finasteride, a small sample. There was also no information on how long the men took the drug.

Dr. Rigved Tadwalkar, a consultant cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in California who wasn’t involved in the research, told Medical News Today that “the study is interesting and suggests a potential new avenue for research,” but he doesn’t consider it groundbreaking.

“It provides reasonable evidence that finasteride might have beneficial effects on cholesterol and atherosclerosis,” Tadwalkar said. “However, if further research corroborates and expands on these findings, it could lead to a novel approach in preventing and treating atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, particularly in individuals with certain risk factors.”

Tadwalkar added that the study has “several significant limitations.”

“The differences between mice and humans introduce uncertainties in the direct translation of results to human populations, given variations in metabolism and physiology,” Tadwalkar said. “The human population study relies on an observational design, making it challenging to establish a clear cause-and-effect relationship. The absence of controlled interventions also limits the ability to definitively attribute observed outcomes to finasteride.”

Tadwalkar said the study lacks details such as finasteride dosage, treatment duration, and potential “confounding” variables, diminishing the depth of its findings.

“The mechanisms through which finasteride exerts its effects remain elusive, highlighting the need for a more comprehensive understanding of the drug’s impact on atherosclerosis and lipid profiles,” he said.

Share this Article