About the same time hair transplantation was gaining ground
as an acceptable, although pluggy, treatment for baldness,
minoxidil began to appear in the media as a potential treatment
for hair loss. Reports were cautiously optimistic, with
long time gaps, and all seem to come with some cheesy title
like: "Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow," or "Hair
Raising News," or "Hair All About It," or,
"Hair Raising Effect," or, "Bald Truth -
blah blah. (Author's note: These same type
of pun titles have been repeated to a nauseating degree
for the last 40 years by reporters who thought they were
first to claim them. After reading the first 30, it got
Developed by then Upjohn Co. of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Minoxidil
first came on the scene in 1968 when it was being tested
as an oral treatment for hypertension. Those tests quickly
revealed test subjects were sprouting hair on their "...backs,
cheeks and heads." (1)
A Time Magazine newsbrief entitled "Hair Today,
Gone Tomorrow" from January 26, 1981 reported:
"For brooding baldies who have spent fortunes
on useless hair-growing potions and lotions, hope seems
to recede as steadily as their hairlines. But now comes
word that a respected pharmaceutical firm, the Upjohn
Co. of Kalamazoo, Mich., is investigating a chemical that
could lead to development of the first successful hair
restorer. The drug's name: minoxidil.
"Upjohn, which developed minoxidil as a treatment
for severe high blood pressure, stumbled on its potential
gold mine when clinical trials indicated the drug had
a peculiar side effect: growth of hair on the body, face
and scalp. Most intriguing, the hair-raising effect extended
to the pates of men supposedly irreversibly bald."
The very first tests for this new "hair restorer"
were conducted -get ready for this- on "...balding
inmates at the state prison in Jackson, Michigan."
However, those results were inclusive and didn't work out.
Undeterred, the company went out in search of new male and
female subjects with lost hair.
Very little is heard about these tests until a November
1984 press release comes out reporting that 50 percent of
the subjects at 20 different testing locations were reporting
positive results.(3) About a week later, the Associated
Press picks up the story which is then distributed in newspapers
throughout the country. The AP reported that 2200 subjects
were being tested in 28 different locations. In one, Washington
Hospital Center, 71 patients out of 91 men and 5 women saw
improvement. Of those, 27 saw "cosmetically acceptable"
improvement with hair growth being "doubled."
According to another Time Magazine article that appeared
in 1986, when this same hospital announced they were seeking
subjects to test this new miracle cure, "...10,000
eager volunteers called in, jamming the switchboard
for three days and forcing the staff to use disaster
control lines." (5)
As news of the results leaked to the media from eager doctors
who led the testing centers, and eager Upjohn executives
who issued press releases, the FDA was applying the breaks
to all the excitement and tried to shift the focus back
That same 1986 Time Magazine article reported: "Despite
the clamor, the FDA shows no sign of giving the nod soon.
In the past two months, agency officials have scolded
Upjohn, charging that a company press release was "overly
positive" and contained " 'misconceptions and
false impressions of safety and efficacy.' "
Upjohn's press release that got them into trouble from
the FDA was released on April 29, 1986 and caused the company's
stock price to rise 9 percent in 48 hours to $174.25 a share.
The excitement over the drug from both investors and bald
men was building to unrealistic levels. As the first hair
loss drug to come from a respected pharmaceutical company,
the excitement and hype that was building around minoxidil
at the time could be - understandable. Afterall, mankind
had waited 5,000 years for something like this and it was
a significant improvement from the pigeon poop and goat
pee concoction Hippocrates developed around 400 BC. (see
of Hair Loss Treatments)
But even in that 1986 article, Time Magazine was trying
to be cautious about the results. Although 76 percent of
patients in that 2200 person study were showing "new
hair growth," the placebo group also showed some new
hair growth and only 40 percent of the minoxidil group were
reporting new hair growth that was "moderate"
or otherwise, noticeable. "It rarely produces a
The article also pointed out that minoxidil was working
best on younger men with recent hair loss, not older men
who had already endure a bald spot for years or decades.
"It works best on the scalps of men who are just
beginning to go bald, especially those in their early 20s.
Only a fraction of the nation's millions of balding men
meet those criteria."
Surrounded by a combination of caution and hype, the FDA
approved Rogaine 2 percent topical solution as the first
hair loss treatment drug in the United States on August
17, 1988. Unfortunately, the hype before it's release had
been so great, that the results and cautions by respected
dermatologists cooled this effect once it hit the market.
The day after it was released, the New York Times ran a
piece which cautioned the now widely known points about
- It will never restore hair density to that of a man's
- Stopping the twice a day application will result in
a return to hair loss as it would have been before.
- It only works best on newly lost hair, and crown hair
- It works best on hair that is recently lost, or thinning
and about to be lost.
- Minoxidil only grew hair in 30 to 60 percent of the
subjects tested with the 2 and 3 percent formulas.
Despite the FDA approval, the best days for Upjohn's stock
price were gone as well which had fallen to $31.75 the day
of FDA approval, from $174.25 just two years before when
they issued their overly positive press release in April
of 1986. Sales of the topical solution went on to be mediocre
and the profit margin never matched expectations. As it
turns out, minoxidil in tablet form was being compounded
into a topical solution for years before FDA approval and
being sold to men too eager to wait on the topical solution
to hit American pharmacies. Plus, 45 other countries had
also approved oral minoxidil and clinics were illegally
importing and modifying the drug as a hair loss treatment
for scalp application.
The Kalamazoo, Mich., company contended last month (April
1987) that 20 companies were illegally importing the components
of its hair-loss treatment and selling the finished product
in violation of Upjohn patents. (7)
When the FDA approved Minoxidil, the sudden expansion onto
the market place drove prices down, not up. "Rogaine
began looking like a pharmaceutical Edsel in the first few
months after (it was FDA approved). Upjohn made
it available in November of that year. Sales that some market
analysts had predicted would $200 million a year in the
first year totaled less than a third of that in 1989. (7)
Undeterred, Upjohn changed their marketing strategy to
a tactic that was ahead of it's time. Instead of marketing
Rogaine to doctors, they would market directly to the consumer.
Ads in sports and men's magazines began appearing and commercials
with bald men contemplating their, baldness, were encouraged
to see their doctor. However, this retooled approach was
still seen as too "soft" and "vague"
and men needed to be pushed to action more so Upjohn began
running more hard hitting ads, calling for action immediately,
and offering $10 coupon's off their doctor's visit. (8)
The strategy apparently paid off as sales more than doubled
from $67 million in 1989, to $140 to $150 million in 1991.
By 1992, Upjohn felt that had learned some valuable marketing
lessons and set out to market their product to women.
As a New York Times Article put it: "After
all, if, as Woody Allen once said, being bisexual doubles
your chance of getting a date, then expanding a drug's market
to women and men, from only men, would seem to be a marvelous
marketing opportunity." (8,9)
Two months after that article appeared, the FDA approved
the marketing of a 2 percent formula for women. Despite
the attempt to increase it's market size by selling to women,
by 1995 sales had drifted back down to $124 million worldwide.(8)
By 1996, Upjohn had moved the 2 percent formula out from
behind the pharmacists' counter to over the counter, and
lost it's bid to market Rogaine exclusively - opening the
door for lower cost generics. But the 1990s saw even more
bad news for Upjohn. By 1996, it becomes obvious that rival
Merck will receive FDA clearance for it's ant-DHT hair loss
pill, Propecia, (finasteride). (9)
[Clarification Note: Upjohn had already
merged with Swedish pharmaceutical company, Pharmacia
AB, in 1995, to become Pharmacia Upjohn. Pharmacia Upjohn
became Pharmacia after a merger with Monsanto. After an
acquisition between Monsanto and Pfizer, Pfizer merged
with Pharmacia in 2002. Pfizer then sold it's Rogaine
brand to McNEIL-PPC, a healthcare division of Johnson
and Johnson in 2006, the same year it came out with Rogaine
Foam. So, to be clear, after a long string of mergers
and acquisitions, Rogaine is now owned by Johnson and
After a clinical trial and a long wait, Upjohn finally
received permission from the FDA to market their Rogaine
Extra Strength (5 percent minoxidil) in January of 1998.
For a time, no new major developments came along for minoxidil
users until 2006 when the Rogaine company released a new
version with a more effective foam based delivery system.
This was an important improvement for the product which
always had a "messy" application in which the
user must endure a sopping mess of wet hair until the topical
solution dried - an inconvenient approach if you want to
apply it in the morning before heading off to work, with
your head still wet and messy from a topical baldness cure.
The foam version works right in and dries fast, making it
easier for users to incorporate into their daily use, and
to stick with the twice a day regimen.(11,12)
And with this new foam based delivery system, the promise
of new hair growth seemed to improve from the 60 percent
Rogaine reported in earlier studies, to the 85 percent possible
with the new foam. The studies that show this 85 percent
"improvement" rate (improvement is a bit loosely
defined) are not made available on the Rogaine website.
However, after some digging, I believe I located the studies
which back their claim and presented them on our Minoxidil
as a Treatment for Crown Hair Loss.
- Rogaine Seeks Place In
the Morning Routine, Andrew Adam
Newman, NY Times, January 24, 2008
- Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow,
Time Magazine, Jan. 26, 1981, p.?
- Business Times reports
on tests of minoxidil for preventing baldness,
PR Newswire, Nov. 21, 1981
- Hair-raising news,
The Rock Hill Herald, AP, Dec. 1, 1984
- Health & Fitness:
Some Bald Facts About Minoxidil, Time Magazine,
July 14, 1986, By Anastasia Toufexis, Maria Leonhauser
and Dick Thompson
- Hair-Growth Drug Approved,
The First Cleared in the U.S. New York Times,
Aug. 18, 1988, Gina Kolata
- Baldness Potion a Tough
Sell, Linda Roach Monroe, for The LA Times
and The Bulletin (Bend Oregon) March 16, 1990
- THE MEDIA BUSINESS: ADVERTISING;
Upjohn Turns to Women To Increase Rogaine Sales,
January 3, 1992, Stuart Elliot
- Pharmaceutical firms
race to bring more anti-baldness drugs to market,
(Reuters) Financial Post, Toronto, Canada, June 22, 1996.
- Monsanto, & Upjohn,
Wikipedia.org, retrieved July 1, 2010.
- Minoxidil for Men, HairLossLibrary.com,
Last Updated May 10, 2010.
- FDA grants Pharmacia
marketing exclusivity for extra-strength Rogaine,
Associated Press Archive, via NewsLibrary.com, February