Hair Loss Treatment: Tagamet

Cimetidine (Tagamet) is a histamine blocker medication that is most often prescribed to treat GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) or ulcers by decreasing acid in the stomach.

Stomach acid troubles seem completely unrelated to hair loss. And while the two problems may not be connected, there is a possible relationship between treatments: Tagamet may occasionally be prescribed as part of treatment for both conditions.

Cimetidine and Hair Growth

Tagamet allows stomach ulcers to improve by slowing down the stomach's production of irritating acid. But the drug also works against hormones called androgens, which are responsible for male and female pattern baldness (androgenetic alopecia), which are often genetic. Tagamet has very weak androgen-blocking abilities, and it is believed that it may partially block the hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT) from destroying hair follicles — and making your hair fall out. Too many androgens and too much DHT may be the reason behind hair loss, and cimetidine potentially affects both of those hormones.

Because of these properties, there have been a few studies evaluating cimetidine — most of them about 20 years ago — as a possible hair loss treatment for women with androgenetic alopecia. These were small studies, and had mixed results.

Cimetidine has also been used to treat excess facial hair growth — a condition called hirsutism.

Propecia as a Hair Loss Treatment

Pros, Cons, and Side Effects

Cimetidine should only be taken as a hair loss treatment under your doctor's supervision, as it does pose health risks and side effects. Minor side effects can include:

  • Feeling dizzy
  • Having a headache
  • Developing diarrhea
  • Feeling sleepy
  • Swelling of the breasts in men

More serious side effects include:

  • Feeling depressed or nervous
  • A sense of confusion
  • Hallucinations

While cimetidine may have the potential to work against hormones that trigger hair loss and be an effective hair loss treatment, it's not a common or first- line treatment. In fact, cimetidine is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a hair loss treatment — though it's sometimes used off-label for hair loss.

Tagamet may also be unsafe for people who are:

  • Pregnant or may become pregnant
  • Allergic to cimetidine
  • Taking certain other medications (including ketoconazole, antacids, or antidepressants)

Minoxidil for Male Hair Loss

Taking Tagamet

Tagamet is available both over-the-counter and by prescription, as a pill and a liquid medication. But you should only take Tagamet under your doctor's supervision.

In the studies in the 1980s and 1990s that found that Tagamet might benefit women with androgenetic hair loss, high doses of the medication were used. Such high doses may cause sexual and other side effects in men, so men are not good candidates for Tagamet as a hair loss treatment.

Over-the-counter Tagamet can cost under $10, but prescription cimetidine may be more. The cost will depend on whether your insurance plan covers cimetidine (it will undoubtedly not cover it for use as a hair loss treatment). If cost is a concern for you (especially given the significant doses of cimetidine that might be needed for effective hair loss treatment), talk to your doctor about whether cimetidine makes for a cost-effective treatment for your hair loss.

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