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Save your hair and your money

By Naomi Mannino ·
Friday, April 13, 2012
Posted: 4 pm ET

Good news is on its way for balding men and women who want to see their monthly costs, rather than their hairlines, recede.

Hair-loss treatments only work as long as you continue to use them, which can add a sizable amount to your monthly budget. Enter FDA-approved Propecia (finasteride), a daily medicine taken orally that will become available in a generic form in January. For men, that means they have a shot at regrowing hair or halting loss at a price cheaper than its current price tag of $82 per month, according to Consumer Reports.

For men and women who use the topical FDA-approved hair regrowth treatment Rogaine (minoxidil), that formula is already available over the counter in its generic form.

"Use the generic minoxidil available over the counter at the drugstore," suggests Dr. Eric Schweiger, a dermatologist and hair transplant surgeon at Bernstein Medical Center for Hair Restoration in New York City. "It's the same as Rogaine but cheaper by up to $30 for the 6-ounce pack, which is a three-month supply."

Most people think things that cost less are lower quality -- and that applies to items such as food, clothes and medicine. According to studies, those lower expectations can actually lead to poorer perception of results. In one study published in a 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers compared the effectiveness of a pain medication depending on its price. Eighty-five percent of the group that took the expensive pill said it reduced their pain, and only 61 percent of the group that used the discounted pill said it was effective.

The catch? The same pill was used in both groups.

When it comes to drugs, generic just means the patent for the formula, which generally lasts 20 years, has run out -- allowing other manufacturers to make the drug. Consumer Reports says this reduces its price by as much as half by the end of the first year after the patent has expired, and the price continues to drop by as much as 95 percent by the third year.

United States trademark laws do not allow generic drugs to look exactly like the brand-name drug, but the FDA says generic drugs must use the same active ingredients as the brand-name drug and work the same way with the same risks and benefits. Colors, flavors and certain other inactive ingredients may be different, which can affect the way they absorb, feel or go down. That's why you may notice differences when you switch from a brand name to a generic medication.

While I have a thick head of hair myself, I've noticed drugstores run "buy one, get one 50 percent off" on their generic minoxidil. You can save even more money by looking for these sales and using your rewards for these purchases.

So, will generic hair loss treatments grow on you?

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