When will the next hair loss drug breakthrough come?

hair loss drugThe last major topical hair loss drug breakthrough was the 1988 launch of minoxidil topical solution Rogaine (Regaine in UK) as a prescription treatment for male androgenetic alopecia.

New experimental hair loss drug

Presented at this month’s American Academy of Dermatology meeting, a new topical solution called SMO4554 from Samumed has showed promising results in early studies. In one study of 300 patients, those that took the drug saw an increase in hair density and hair count, measured objectively by macrophotography, compared to those that took the placebo and who saw continued loss of hair.

In the control group, hair count dropped from 114 hairs per cm2 to 111.5, but in the group that took a 0.15% formulation of SMO4554 saw their hair count increase from 104.9 to 115 and in the 0.25% group, it rose from 110.8 to 118.5.

As well as effective, the drug seems to be safe as there were no serious adverse events reported in the group that took SMO4554.

How does this hair loss medication work?

The topical solution works by affecting the Wnt pathway. Our stem cells divide and multiply to create new cells and they can differentiate themselves, depending on which tissue or organ requires them. The Wnt pathway plays a crucial role in repair and regeneration of tissues by signalling to our stem cells when they need to renew or differentiate. This has important implications in oncology or treatment of degenerative conditions, but Samumed are also applying this technology to our hair follicles.

The FDA approval process in the US is particularly long and tortuous and larger studies are required, evaluating safety, efficacy and the appropriate dosage, before Samumed can release SMO4554 to the market.

Another potential hair loss medication breakthrough is global pharmaceutical company Allergan’s Bimatoprost product. This glaucoma medication was noted to increase eyelash length at the same time and in 2008 it was approved by the FDA to grow eyelashes for those with sparse or inadequate lashes. Last November they released some information on their studies investigating the efficacy of this medication as a scalp hair loss product and it seems that Bimatoprost 1% and Bimatoprost 3% both result in marginally superior hair growth compared to Minoxidil 5% based on an ‘Expert Panel Review’ and ‘Investigator Global Assessment’.

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