Old drugs, new tricks for glossy hair

What started life as a blood pressure treatment is now an effective hair lotion

NEW uses for existing medicines. This week: Minoxidil

This over-the-counter rub-on foam or lotion (sold under the brand name Regaine) has been shown to stimulate hair growth by increasing blood flow to the scalp, nourishing hair follicles.

But it began life in the 1960s as a tablet for high blood pressure, working by dilating blood vessels.

When researchers were testing it on patients, they noticed some were sprouting hairs on their heads, hands and neck.

After initially dismissing this as a harmless side-effect, executives at US pharmaceutical firm Upjohn decided to reformulate it into a lotion for hair loss, rather than pursue its use for high blood pressure.

Minoxidil works in about two-thirds of cases, for both men and women — but potential side-effects include rapid heartbeat, swollen feet and stomach pains.

You also have to keep using it to maintain the effect.

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