If you've ever logged onto a hair-loss forum the chances are that you will already have some idea of dutasteride's potential as a hair loss remedy. If you haven't, it's caused quite a stir. Dutasteride was originally developed by GlaxoSmithKline for the treatment of Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (an enlarged prostate).
Anyone familiar with the history of finasteride (currently one of two FDA recommended treatments for the prevention of hair loss) will recognize BHP as the same condition that led to finasteride's development. In fact the similarities don't end there; both function by inhibiting the action of 5 alpha-reductase (which in turn decreases DHT levels), both are taken orally as tablets and both have similar side effects (and most importantly shouldn't be used by pre-menopausal women).
The main difference is that dutasteride hasn't been approved by the FDA as a valid hair loss remedy. In 2002 did receive the thumbs up from the FDA for the treatment of BHP (which at least means that it is thought to be safe), and was able to boast some impressive clinical results. Whereas finasteride only blocked the action of one type of 5-AR, dutasteride blocked both - successfully reducing overall DHT levels by up to 90 per cent. It also worked much more quickly. Dermatologists suddenly became very excited.
Phase one results came in which further backed up dutasteride's claim of being more effective than finasteride and this time the results related directly to hair loss. However things then turned slightly sour. In late 2002, just as the market was about to welcome the new wonder-drug with open arms, GlaxoSmithKline cancelled the phase three trials. Dermatologists everywhere were left scratching their heads as to why, and so far GlaxoSmithKline has failed to comment.
The rumor mill has it that their reasoning was purely commercial (in that the consumer might react slowly to dutasteride when there's such a similar, and well established, product already in the marketplace. However for many this simply doesn't wash). A number of dermatologists still prescribe dutasteride for hair loss, but it's important to remember that until GlaxoSmithKline finishes testing the medicine (if indeed it will) its' efficacy has yet to be proven.