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Excessive hair growth: certain drugs implicated

Some drugs expose patients to excessive hair growth, which is usually reversible when treatment is discontinued.

Hypertrichosis in a man or woman is characterised by an abnormal amount of hair growth on all or part of the body, usually in the form of down, and hirsutism is the growth of male hair in areas normally hairless in women (face, neck, chest, area between the pubis and navel, buttocks).

Excessive hair growth can cause embarrassment, which is subjective and influenced by social, cultural and personal notions, exposing sufferers to a psychological and social stigma.

Some topically or systemically administered drugs expose patients to excessive hair growth with varying degrees of frequency. Drug-related hair growth often appears several months after the commencement of treatment, and is reversible within a few months of discontinuing the medication. The risk is greater if several drugs with the same adverse effect are combined.

The drugs most often associated with hair growth are chiefly medications with an androgenic effect, including testosterone, tibolone, and some progestins; minoxidil; corticosteroids including by inhalation; ciclosporin; drugs such as latanoprost or travoprost used as eye drops in chronic glaucoma; anti-tumour inhibitors having an anti-epidermal growth factor (EGFR) effect; and phenytoin, an antiepileptic.

©Prescrire 1 May 2017

"Drug-induced excess hair growth" Prescrire Int 2017; 26 (182): 122-124. (Pdf, subscribers only).

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