Worried about losing your hair? According to data from the National Library of Medicine, an estimated 50 million men are affected by androgenic alopecia (also commonly referred to as male pattern baldness) in the US alone.
Put simply, hair loss is very common. Luckily, it’s an issue that can be slowed down and often prevented through modern medicine.
Today, hair loss medications like Propecia® can limit the extent of your hair loss by preventing your body from producing DHT, the hormone that’s responsible for causing baldness.
Like other medications, Propecia is sold under its original brand name and as a generic under the name of its active ingredient, finasteride.
Below, we’ve listed the main differences between generic Propecia (finasteride) and the brand name Propecia manufactured by Merck.
Propecia is a medication that’s manufactured and marketed by Merck & Co., Inc., which is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.
Merck developed finasteride throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, originally as a treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or prostate enlargement.
The medication was first approved by the FDA in 1992 and originally went onto the market as Proscar®.
Each Proscar tablet contains 5mg of finasteride. This higher dose is designed specifically as a treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
In 1997, the FDA approved a second medication called Propecia — a lower-dose, 1mg version of Proscar intended to treat male pattern baldness.
Studies show that finasteride, the active ingredient in Propecia, is highly effective as a treatment for male pattern baldness.
In a two-year trial, researchers found that daily use of finasteride at a 1mg dosage “slowed the progression of hair loss and increased hair growth” in men with male pattern hair loss.
A review of finasteride’s use as a treatment for male pattern baldness produced similar findings, concluding that oral finasteride “promotes scalp hair growth” and “prevents further hair loss in a significant proportion of men with male pattern hair loss.”
Finasteride works by stopping the production of a hormone called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, which can bind to receptors in your scalp and damage your hair follicles.
DHT is produced in your body as a byproduct of testosterone. By preventing the conversion of testosterone into DHT, finasteride reduces DHT levels throughout your body and shields your hair follicles from damage.
Our guide to DHT and male pattern baldness explains this process and the effects of DHT on your hair in more detail.
Like many other medications that have been on the market for several decades, Propecia is available as a brand name medication and as a generic.
Generic Propecia, which is often referred to simply as finasteride, contains the same ingredient as the brand name Propecia sold by Merck.
It has the same effects within your body and is just as effective at slowing down or preventing the effects of male pattern baldness.
Like brand name Propecia, generic finasteride comes in tablet form and is designed to be taken daily at a dosage of 1mg.
If you have a prescription for finasteride, you’ll be able to choose between purchasing the brand name Propecia produced by Merck or generic finasteride.
Finasteride, the active ingredient in Propecia, is available in several forms and is typically used at several different dosages.
Brand name Propecia is sold exclusively as a 1mg tablet. Each tablet is intended for daily use, making it easy to take the typical 1mg of finasteride per day with this form of the medication.
Generic finasteride is available in several dosages. You may see this medication sold in 1mg or 5mg tablets.
The 1mg version of generic finasteride is intended for use as a hair loss treatment. Just like with brand name Propecia, this medication should be taken one time per day to treat hair loss.
The 5mg version of generic finasteride is generally used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH.
If you have BPH, your healthcare provider may prescribe this medication on its own or for use with other types of medication, such as an alpha-blocker.
This dosage of finasteride is not designed for use as a treatment for male pattern baldness and should not be used for this purpose.
Finasteride is a safe, effective medication for most men. However, like many other medications, it can cause side effects.
Common side effects of finasteride include:
While these side effects might sound alarming, they only affect a small percentage of men who use finasteride to treat hair loss.
Because brand name Propecia and generic finasteride contain the same active ingredient, they both cause side effects at an equal rate.
Our guide to the side effects of finasteride covers some of the most common adverse effects of finasteride in detail, explaining how and why they can happen.
While brand name Propecia and generic finasteride are identical in terms of function, they differ substantially when it comes to price.
As a brand name medication manufactured by a major drug company, Propecia is significantly more expensive on a per-tablet basis than generic finasteride.
A month’s supply of brand name Propecia generally costs between $110 and $160 from most major pharmacies (but this can change depending upon the pharmacy, insurance co-pay, deductibles, and prices).
In comparison, a month’s supply of generic finasteride generally costs between $20 and $60, depending on the specific brand you choose and the pharmacy from which you purchase the medication.
Our full guide to finasteride pricing goes into greater detail about how much you can expect to spend on finasteride to manage your hair loss.