finasteride / propecia / proscar


Originally uploaded by derek7272

So I have been taking Propecia for about a year to try and combat my receding hairline. Which is not terribly receding, but I wanted to nip it in the bud, y’know? I really should have taken before-and-after photos to compare, but I believe there has been some hair regrowth. (nothing dramatic)

The one problem: It is not covered by my insurance, and costs like $70/mo. Finally after buying the drug for a year I discovered the little Propecia secret. You can ask your doctor to prescribe the prostate-shrinking drug Proscar, which contains finasteride, the same active ingredient as Propecia. Proscar comes in 5 mg tablets, while you only need 1 mg daily of Propecia, but a $5.99 Duane Reade pill-splitter can cut them in four very easily. My prescription plan does cover Proscar (it was filled with a generic, pictured), and I used the mail order pharmacy Caremark to fill it. Total cost for 90 pills: $7.

Presumably if I’m able to cut all the pills in quarters the drug should last me … (4*90=360) … just about a year! Not bad for $7. (Yes I will be getting 1.25 mg a day rather than 1mg, but my doctor just kinda shrugged at that).

Also, the NYT had a recent story about how taking finasteride apparently cuts men’s chances of getting prostate cancer by 30 percent. That involves a 5mg dose, but one might speculate that a lower dose still might provide some benefit. The article quotes a doctor as comparing the drug to cholesterol-lowering statins, in fact.

19 comments to finasteride / propecia / proscar

  • tallman

    Umm, is this really going to work? Does Proscar contain the same amount or percentage of finasteride? Doesn’t it matter how much finasteride is in 1/4 of the pill, not just that there is some?

    As for the hair, I’m not sure if there has been regrowth, but there certainly hasn’t been further recession, which is really good enough in your case. I approve your proactive decision in this regard. Nipping it in the bud, or in this case encouraging the buds is a good idea. And now this is so economical.

  • Well Proscar contains 5 mg of finasteride and Propecia contains 1 mg. Actually I am just taking a generic Proscar equivalent pill that is 5mg finasteride, as you can see on the label.

    So anyway if I split one of those pills in quarters each should contain 1.25 mg finasteride, right? When I was taking Propecia each pill was 1 mg. So I will be getting slightly more of the drug, but I don’t think dosing is an exact science anyway.

  • tallman

    Do they tell you the size of the pill or the amount of each drug/ingredient in the pill? If they give you the detail of each ingredient in the pill, then I guess you are set. But I didn’t know that they give you the proportions. I thought is might be like in food where they tell you what you get in the ingredients but they don’t tell you how much of each stuff they give you.

  • tallman

    Looking at the picture again, I think I understand. The Proscar drug isn’t actually a drug called Proscar, it is actually just a 5 mg dose of Finasteride with basically nothing else. So I guess you are set. Those crazy names are a little confusing. I thought finasteride would just have been one of the ingredients for proscar, but I guess it is the only ingredient or at least the only active ingredient. Seems like a great deal to me but a situation where there is no reason to buy Propecia except ignorance.

  • I think that’s true of just about any prescription drug, though, right? Xanax is the trade name for a substance called alprazolam. Crestor is the trade name for rosuvastatin. Prozac is the trade name for fluoxetine hydrochloride. Retin-A is the brand name for tretinoin. Etc., etc., etc.

    Of course if there is a generic equivalent available, you want to use that, and that’s how a pharmacy should fill your order unless it’s specified on the prescription. But for some reason Duane Reade didn’t when I got my Propecia. Possibly because generic finasteride only comes in 5mg doses and not 1mg? I’m not sure.

  • Tallman

    So Propecia is marked up 120 times the cost of the Proscar? That is crazy! Just another example of how a health consumer needs to do their own research and can’t rely on the health infrastructure. It is really pathetic that such inefficiencies or actually such possibilities to be screwed over exists in this vital marketplace.

  • Well, $7 was my cost after health insurance. Not sure what the price would have been if it wasn’t covered by insurance. And technically what I got wasn’t Proscar but a generic, which is typically a lot cheaper but can only be produced after the patent expires. I think the patent only recently expired on Propecia and Proscar, which might be why there apparently wasn’t a generic Propecia available when I last filled my prescription.

  • john

    The patent on Proscar expired in 2006 but the patent on Propecia doesn’t expire until 2013. So until then, it will be difficult to find a generic propecia…

  • I tried this trick on viagra. Purchase the 100 mg and cut it up to 4 to 6 pieces. Works out to cut the price down heaps

  • abc

    Yes, the Proscar and Propecia (finasteride) do contain the same ingredients in different amounts and cutting a Proscar (or generic 5 mg) pill in 4 would almost be equivalent to a Propecia 1 mg pill . However, the difference in price is due to the difference in insurance coverage: most insurance plans cover the finasteride for prostate problems but not for hair problems; thus the reason for having two different commercial products on the market; Proscar for prostate, Propecia for hair. By having the Proscar prescribed for hair problems, you are “pretending” to have a prostate problem so that your insurance accepts to pay it (which means, in a way, that other people pay for you) ….do what you want of this, but it is not the same thing as, say, taking a 100 mg pill of Viagra and cutting it in half to make a 50 mg pill (because Viagra is for only one indication).

  • Yeah, I actually realized that recently. I didn’t know much about my insurance coverage, but I guess it has a $7 copay for all covered drugs. Not sure how much the Proscar would cost if it wasn’t covered. Oh well — that wasn’t my intent when I got the prescription, and I won’t have to worry about the ethics about it for awhile. I am only about halfway through my first 90-pill bottle (which I divide into quarters) and have another unopened one.

  • The Borg

    Who here doesn’t want to have a 30% lower possibility of developing prostate cancer? If any of you say no to that then you are ripping off the system by getting proscar for your hair. If you answer yes then how are you ripping off the system? Nobody would answer no unless their a moron so nobody who does this is ripping off the system. We all pay higher rates because the way this crappy system is setup.

  • Asspants

    How do you split the pills into 4? By the way, you are a genius. This is a great idea.

  • I just use my fingers to snap them in half, and then half again. Or you can also buy a pill-cutter from any drug store for like $5 or so.

  • the doc

    One thing to be careful about is don’t let your woman near the place where you cut up your pills or at least clean up after yourself well because even touching these pills (without the coating that comes with the whole pill) can cause birth defects if your woman is pregnant. Just be careful is all i’m saying.

  • raju

    The drug per mg cost the same, whether it is for prostrate or hair growth. I bought finasteride (1mg for hair) from a different country. 370 tablets cost me around 32USD, while proscar (5mg tablet for prostrate) in USA is $35 (90 tablets). But no doubt, due to the insurance coverage, Proscar will be definitely cheaper. And checked it with my Dr., they are the same drug so can be taken for hair-1mg/prostrate-5mg.

  • Hi Derek,

    Can you please give me the contact information of the doctor that prescribed Proscar? I recently moved to the city and I am having trouble finding a doc that will. I have been on Propecia for 2 years and with the increase in overall living expenses with the move to Manhattan, I would love to pay $7 for a years supply instead of $1,200!!! Please provide if at all possible.


  • John

    Hey Derek, how the heck did you get your doctor to prescribe the drug for prostate shrinkage when you don’t have any prostate problems? Did you just ask him right out? I have tried this and none will do it. But obviously, I would love to pay $1000 less a year than I am.

  • John, it’s the same drug (finasteride), it’s just not the same brand name.

    I can’t remember if it was my doctor’s idea or my idea. But he was cool with it. Lately unfortunately he has been writing on the prescription that I should only take a quarter of each 5 mg tablet, so the drug store only gives me 22 tablets each time (for a 90-day prescription) rather than the 90 I was getting before.

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