The Hair Clinic London

The Most Popular Hair Loss Treatment Was Found By Accident

Some of the greatest developments in medical history are often the result of accidents, mistakes and unexpected side effects being revealed through extensive clinical trial phases. These accidents can often go on to change the world.

The discovery of sildenafil’s most characteristic effect was initially seen as an unfortunate side effect of an angina treatment that ultimately had proven to be ineffective. 

However, this side effect was later used to treat a condition many people did not even believe was physiological, creating the legend of Viagra in the process.

The discovery of the most popular male hair loss treatment in the world, as for nearly three decades it had been used to treat a variety of conditions almost entirely unrelated to its most famous one.

From The Stomach To The Skull

The story of minoxidil shares many parallels with the story of Viagra, including the company that made it, being unsuitable for its original purpose and even that both are vasodilators, albeit with vastly different effects and mechanisms.

The Upjohn Company was founded in 1886 and would in 1997 be bought by Pfizer, the gigantic pharmaceutical company that produced Viagra.

In the 1950s, Upjohn was looking into a treatment for peptic ulcers, but during early animal clinical trials found that minoxidil as dosed was ineffective for treating the condition.

However, what was quickly discovered was that it worked well as a vasodilator, which is a type of medicine that widens and opens up blood vessels and allows blood to flow more freely throughout the body.

This led to it being approved in tablet form in 1979 as a blood pressure medication, and would further receive permission from the Food and Drug Administration of the United States (FDA) to see if minoxidil could be used as a treatment for hypertension.

This is where one of the greatest cases of serendipity in modern medical history happened.

A Patch Of Hair

Charles Chisdey, a researcher at the University of Colorado School of Medicine was asked by Upjohn to test its potential as a hypertension medication, and he undertook two studies to this end.

One of them, rather surprisingly, found that members of the study had unexpectedly grown hair, and this led Mr Chidsey to contact Guinter Kahn to help investigate this phenomenon.

Mr Kahn, who was the first to link minoxidil to hair growth whilst at the University of Miami, contacted Paul Grant and the pair worked on topical solutions mixing it with alcohol.

This would unfortunately lead to a decade-long legal case between Upjohn and Mr Kahn over the ownership of the patent for minoxidil as a hair loss treatment, ultimately leading to a joint patent.

Whilst it would take until 1988 for Rogaine (known in the UK as Regaine) to hit the market, doctors would very quickly prescribe the blood pressure medication Loniten off-label as a hair loss reduction treatment.

Whilst it was not effective for everyone suffering from hair loss, given that it has a wide variety of causes, it was approved by the FDA for treating male baldness in 1988 and would be made available to women in 1991.