Update 23/8/22: Oral minoxidil is available on SIRE website, for both men and women, on a case-by-case basis. Begin your consult here, or drop us an inquiry via our WhatsApp hotline.
Did you know that the discovery of Minoxidil for hair loss was an accidental one?
In the late 1950s, the Upjohn Company (now bought over by Pfizer) developed Minoxidil for the treatment of ulcers. Unfortunately, the scientists were disappointed to find that the treatment did not cure ulcers. What they found instead was that Minoxidil could widen blood vessels and reduce blood pressure dramatically.
In 1979, the FDA approved Oral Minoxidil for the treatment of severe high blood pressure. During the clinical trials for the treatment of high blood pressure, the “accidental” discovery came when researchers noticed that one patient grew new hair on the top of his head. The growth was significant because “it was dark, thick, terminal hair – the kind that is lost in baldness”.
Research then showed that up to 80% of patients taking Oral Minoxidil experienced a troublesome side effect known as hypertrichosis: increased hair growth on the face, arms, back and chest. Topical formulations of Minoxidil were developed and in August 1988, FDA approved Topical Minoxidil under the brand name “Rogaine” for the treatment of male-pattern baldness.
In Singapore, Topical Minoxidil is available over-the-counter, without a prescription as a lotion with concentrations of 2%, 3% or 5% and as a 5% foam. Men who start applying Topical Minoxidil in the early stages of their baldness, and who have smaller areas of baldness, respond best to Topical Minoxidil.
Topical Minoxidil must be used twice a day for at least 4 months. Hair shedding may occur at the initiation of treatment and usually decreases within two months. Hair growth may then be seen within 4-8 months and stabilizes at 12-18 months. A full year of treatment is usually recommended.
Side effects from Topical Minoxidil are infrequent. The most common side effect experienced is scalp irritation, some also do not like the oiliness of the experience, but that can be solved by using the foam version of Topical Minoxidil.
Although Topical Minoxidil is an effective treatment option for hair loss, many patients find it hard to adhere to applying a scalp treatment twice a day.
Some may not like the resulting hair texture after application (come on, the humidity in Singapore is just unbelievable) and some may experience the unwanted scalp irritation after application of Topical Minoxidil. This leads to a search for an alternative oral option.
Traditionally, Oral Minoxidil was used as a potent treatment in reducing high blood pressure. It often reduces blood pressure dramatically, increasing heart rate and retains fluid in the body which can be dangerous when not monitored closely. Oral Minoxidil fell out of favour due to the development of safer and more effective blood pressure medications. Presently, Oral Minoxidil is reserved only for cases of very-difficult-to-control high blood pressure.
In recent years, there has been growing evidence that a low dose of Oral Minoxidil can be safe and effective for the treatment of male-pattern baldness. However, more studies are still required to anchor its safety and effectiveness in the treatment of male-pattern hair loss before it can be approved by the FDA.
To date, there is no Oral Minoxidil product registered with the HSA in Singapore. The recommendation by the FDA is still for Topical Minoxidil in the treatment of male-pattern baldness.
Since Oral Minoxidil is not registered with the HSA for use in Singapore, that means that doctors need to apply for a special license to bring in Oral Minoxidil in Singapore. Your doctor will be able to advise you. If you don’t have one, you can book an appointment with SIRE’s doctor here.