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Minoxidil, the generic topical known by the trade name Rogaine, is probably the most publicized and well-known topical treatment on the market today. Originally developed to treat hypertension (elevated blood pressure), it was discovered, like finasteride (or Proscar), to have the unlikely side effect of stimulating hair growth.
Taken orally, this side effect was not met with delight, as it has often stimulated the growth in unwanted places. However, this led to testing minoxidil topi-cally on thinning and bald scalps. At best, its ability to regrow hair when used alone has been moderate. Minoxidil was finally cleared by the FDA for topical hair-growth use in 1988. Since then Upjohn, its pharmaceutical manufacturer, has sold about $150 million worth of Rogaine each year.
How minoxidil works to grow hair is something of a mys-tery. Since it was a blood-pressure pili originally, and is a powerful vasodilator, its function in the scalp may be to deliver more blood to the follicles that would otherwise experience significantly reduced nutrition. However, this must not be its only function because other vasodilators do not stimulate the same response.
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