The history of Propecia is one very interesting story about how medications are sometimes developed and we believe it will be of interest to anyone who is interested in the field of pharmaceutics, but not only to them. It is a story that will show how medications can have a strange and interesting history. It will also provide us with some background to Propecia.
The story starts back in 1974, when a scientist called Julianne Imperato-McGinley from Cornell was speaking at a conference held in New York that was concerned with birth defects. Her report was on a certain group of children from Caribbean which were born sexually ambiguous at birth, at least at first glance. As such, they were raised as if they were girls, until puberty when they started developing male genitalia and other characteristics of the male gender. These children shared a certain genetic mutation which resulted in deficiency of 5-alpha reductase and dihydrotestosterone. Later in life, it was discovered that these individuals had much smaller prostates and that they also never suffered from male pattern baldness.
This presentation found its way to chief of research of Merck back then, P. Roy Vagelos who then dedicated the next two decades to trying to produce these same results with a drug. He wanted to produce this deficiency in 5-alpha reductase and DHT in order to treat enlarged prostate.
He made this happen and in 1992, his new drug, finasteride got approved for treatment of enlarged prostate and it was called Proscar. It came in doses of 5 mg. In 1997, the company got approval for a smaller formulation of finasteride of only 1 mg and it was introduced as treatment for male pattern baldness. This is how we got Propecia.
As you can see, medications are sometimes developed by actually trying to mimic a certain deficiency and a medical condition and they sometimes follow a very strange and interesting path.