The popular hair-loss treatment Minoxidil may be in short supply, experts warn.
Minoxidil is the main active ingredient in Rogaine, which is applied to the scalp. Minoxidil has been found to be more effective when taken orally — but this form has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat hair loss.
The pill has grown in popularity, and now researchers at George Washington University are signaling shortages of oral Minoxidil. Their findings were published last week in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology.
The researchers called 277 pharmacies in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia to ask for a 30-day supply of 2.5 milligrams of Minoxidil.
They reported “a significant care gap” after discovering that only 40% of the pharmacies could fill the prescriptions. The regional shortage “could potentially translate to the national level,” the researchers wrote.
The medication must be taken every day for patients to maintain their progress — a shortage could be detrimental.
“You can go backward and start losing your hair again,” Dr. Adam Friedman, professor and chair of dermatology at George Washington University, told NBC News.
It’s unclear how long patients would have to wait for their medication, based on the study.
“A substantial number of our patients are not going to be able to access Minoxidil because of these shortages,” Friedman said. “It’s a significant problem.”
Michael Ganio — senior director of pharmacy practice and quality for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists — was not surprised by the study’s findings, noting that pharmacies may not always keep a 30-day supply on hand, as the drug is not used to treat medical emergencies.
“Why keep more than a week, maybe 10 days’ worth, on the shelf?” Ganio wondered to NBC News.
Androgenetic alopecia, a common form of hair loss, affects an estimated 50 million men and 30 million women in the US, according to Medline Plus.
Patients may have to contact a few pharmacies to fill their prescription if Minoxidil is needed urgently.
“Hair loss is not life-threatening, but let’s not underestimate the impact on quality of life,” Friedman said. “When people lose their hair, it is extraordinarily disabling.”
The FDA does not list Minoxidil as being in short supply on its website.
This wouldn’t be the first time an unofficial shortage has worried people with thinning hair.
Last summer, NYC found itself in the grips of a Rogaine shortage, with untold numbers of balding men and women facing empty shelves at chain drug stores like Duane Reade and Walgreens.
Just after the supposed shortage, the oral version of Minoxidil became more popular — but perhaps it was too much growth, too fast?