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Generic Propecia (Finasteride) vs. Merck Propecia: What’s the Difference?

Michele Emery, DNP
Medically reviewed by Michele Emery, DNP Written by Our Editorial Team Last updated 9/08/2020

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 known as “male pattern baldness”) in the US alone, including more than half of all men aged 50 and up.

In short, hair loss is extremely common in men. Luckily, it’s something that can be prevented through modern medicine. Today, drugs like Propecia® can limit the extent of your hair loss by targeting and blocking the specific hormones responsible for causing baldness.

Like other medications, Propecia is available 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 Propecia manufactured by Merck. 

Merck Propecia

Propecia is a medication that’s manufactured and marketed by Merck & Co., Inc., one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. Each Propecia tablet contains 1mg of finasteride, which is the active ingredient responsible for treating and preventing hair loss in men.

Merck developed finasteride throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, originally as a treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or prostate enlargement. The drug was 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 BPH. 

In 1997, the FDA approved Propecia — a lower-dose, 1mg version of Proscar intended to treat male pattern baldness. This medication is intended for daily use by men who are affected by 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 1mg “slowed the progression of hair loss and increased hair growth.”

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 inhibiting the production of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the hormone that’s responsible for binding to receptors in your hair follicles and causing hair to stop growing. Our guide to DHT and male pattern baldness explains this process in more detail. 

Like many other medications that affect your hormone levels, finasteride can cause some side effects. 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. 

Generic Propecia

Generic Propecia has been available for several years in the United States. Tablets of generic Propecia contain the same 1mg dose of finasteride as the branded medication that’s marketed and sold by Merck.

Just like Propecia made by Merck, generic finasteride provides the same results as a treatment for hair loss. It contains exactly the same active ingredient and has the same main effects and side effects on your hair and body as medication sold under the Propecia brand name.

If you’re considering generic finasteride for hair loss prevention, it’s important to check the exact dosage of the medication. Most versions of generic finasteride, such as the finasteride included in our Hair Power Pack, use tablets that contain 1mg of finasteride. 

Some generic finasteride tablets contain a higher 5mg dose. These are aimed at people in need of treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. This dosage of finasteride is not designed for — and should not be used as — a treatment for male pattern baldness.

In Summary

Branded Propecia and generic finasteride both contain the same active ingredient at the same dose, meaning you’ll get identical effects from both medications. If you’re prone to hair loss and have a healthcare professional's  prescription for finasteride, both medications are suitable for you to use. 

Interested in learning more about finasteride and hair loss? Our guide to what the average man can expect from finasteride lists the effects of this medication, as well as what you can do to get the best possible results. 

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.