Your Medicine Cabinet Could Hold the Secret to Your Hair Loss

We have all watched infomercials describing the latest and greatest drugs on the market. You know that part right at the end, where they talk really fast and list hundreds of possible side effects of this amazing drug, while watching the actors walk into the sunset? Well that’s the topic of today’s post.

When designing a drug to be effective in treating a disease or condition there can be side effects. Side effects, also called adverse effects are unintentional effects on the body that are due to the drug’s presence and can vary in severity. Some examples of side effects that are encountered with many medications are constipation, ulcers, influenza and headaches.  (1) Hair loss is a common side effect of certain types of medication. For example, chemotherapy is known to lead to hair loss. (2)

Several acne treatments have also been reported to induce hair loss. Isotretinoin is an effective acne treatment and does have several possible side effects including dry eyes, nose bleeds, tiredness and in twelve percent of patients, hair loss. (3)

Depression is another medical condition in which treatment may lead to hair loss. Data from WHO (World Health Organization) and major American pharmaceutical manufactures implicated the anti-depressant fluoxetine, better known as Prozac, had 725 cases of hair loss. (4)

Cimetidine is used to treat ulcers and stomach acidity. Over 60 case reports of hair loss have been associated with the use of this drug and the duration of hair loss has ranged from 2 days to 2 years. (5)

Acne treatments, anti-depressants and ulcer medication aren’t the only types of drugs that can induce hair loss. Several cholesterol lowering agents, diet pills, glaucoma medication and thyroid medication are also treatments with hair loss as a side effect. (4) To avoid medically induced hair loss, speak to your doctor about the side effects of any prescribed medication you are taking or are interested in taking.

Article by: Sarah Versteeg MSc, Mediprobe Research Inc. 

  1. Toledo-Bahena ME, Bucko A, Ocampo-Candiani J, Herz-Ruelas ME, Jones TM, Jarratt MT, et al. The efficacy and safety of tavaborole, a novel, boron-based pharmaceutical agent: phase 2 studies conducted for the topical treatment of toenail onychomycosis. J Drugs Dermatol JDD. 2014 Sep;13(9):1124–32.
  2. Botchkarev VA. Molecular mechanisms of chemotherapy-induced hair loss. J Investig Dermatol Symp Proc Soc Investig Dermatol Inc Eur Soc Dermatol Res. 2003 Jun;8(1):72–5.
  3. Hull PR, Demkiw-Bartel C. Isotretinoin use in acne: prospective evaluation of adverse events. J Cutan Med Surg. 2000 Apr;4(2):66–70.
  4. Pillans PI, Woods DJ. Drug-associated alopecia. Int J Dermatol. 1995 Mar;34(3):149–58.
  5. Khalsa JH, Graham CF, Jones JK. Cimetidine-associated alopecia. Int J Dermatol. 1983 Apr;22(3):202–4.