Understanding The Hair Loss Treatment Cyproterone

Hair loss treatments outside of the United States may include products made with cyproterone acetate sold under the brand names Dianette, Androcur, Andro-Diane, Cyprone, and Cyprostat. Cyproterone acetate is a hormone-based medication known as an antiandrogen that reduces testosterone in the body, and it is not approved for use in the United States.

Cyproterone acetate is used elsewhere to control the effects of testosterone. In men, it is used to treat hypersexuality and manage an overactive sex drive, and to help manage prostate cancer symptoms. In women, it is prescribed for treatment of excess body hair or scalp hair loss due to high levels of male hormones. Combined with a second type of hormone, ethinyl estradiol, cyproterone acetate comes as a combination form of birth control pill prescribed to women. These contraceptives are known as Diane 35, Diane 50, or Dianette. Cyproterone acetate also has been used as treatment for early puberty and severe acne.

“Cyproterone acetate and its derivatives work in female pattern hair loss by blocking male hormone reaction on hair follicles,” says dermatologist Amy McMichael, professor of dermatology at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston Salem, N.C.

What is Female Pattern Baldness?

Cyproterone reduces the effect of testosterone on these hair follicles, preventing the hair loss that is due to testosterone hormone imbalances in women. “The male hormones cause miniaturization of the follicles, causing smaller and smaller hair on the top of the scalp. Once this action is blocked, the hairs do not become miniaturized and contribute more to [hair] density,” Dr. McMichael says.

However, none of the varieties of cyproterone acetate are available as a prescription hair loss treatment in the United States.

Risks Associated with Cyproterone

Cyproterone acetate was first marketed in the 1970s. Despite the long-running appeal of these medications to control acne, hair loss, and reproduction, these products have not been without controversy.

One of the more recent controversies involved the increased risk of blood clots for women taking these contraceptives. In the early 2000s, Diane 35 was marketed as an acne-fighting medication and as an oral contraceptive for women. However, there is some evidence that blood clots were more likely among women taking cyproterone acetate with ethinyl estradiol. (Blood clots are a potential risk factor for many women taking oral contraceptives.) After this evidence came to light, many countries, such as Canada, required a warning to be attached to the product.

Other possible risks of using cyproterone acetate-containing products include:

  • Damage to the liver
  • Depression or other mood changes
  • Osteoporosis (only if used for a very long time, due to the possible effect on estrogen)
  • In men, enlarged breasts and erectile dysfunction
  • In men, reduced sperm count
  • Breathlessness

Certain people should not use medications that contain cyproterone, including people with liver disease, alcoholics, and people with insulin-dependent diabetes.

Try the Hair Loss Prevention Diet

Cyproterone in the United States?

These products are not likely to be available for prescription use against hair loss in the United States anytime soon.

“Getting Food and Drug Administration approval is extremely expensive, and no pharmaceutical company is willing to pay for the major studies that are necessary for submission of a drug approval,” says McMichael. Cyproterone acetate is currently under research in clinical trials for the treatment of prostate cancer because of its possible ability to limit the effect of testosterone on the body’s tissues.

Although it may be tempting to get these medications overseas, bear in mind that you have to keep using them to maintain the benefit of preventing hair loss. Because of the risks involved in taking cyproterone acetate, you should consult a doctor who knows your medical history before you take this medication.

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