That Avodart would work makes some sense. Like Propecia, the drug targets the pathway that converts testosterone to DHT, which is the suspected culprit in hair loss.
"There are good studies that show it is effective," said Dr. Marc Avram, clinical associate professor of dermatology at Weill Medical College at Cornell Medical Center. "There are doctors who do give it out there for hair loss.
"Doctors are using it off-label for men," Avram said. "It absolutely should not be used off-label for women."
While women should not use the drug because of the risk of birth defects, questions also remain about its safety as a baldness remedy for men.
In a review article last October in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Avram and Dr. Nicole Rogers, a hair loss specialist with Old Metairie Dermatology in Metairie, La., wrote that "phase III FDA trials appear to be on hold for using dutasteride to treat male pattern hair loss. It is unclear exactly why, but we hypothesize it is because of concerns about side effects."
Dutasteride lasts much longer in the body than finasteride, and among the side effects the doctors noted was a reduced sperm count among men using the drug.
"The sexual side effect, if you get it, lasts a lot longer than with Propecia," Avram said. "If it affects sperm, they're going to need to do long-terms studies to approve it.
"My feeling is they [GSK] are not really going strong for approval, because to do that, they're going to have to prove that sperm is not affected in any long-term ways," he said.
Avram said he does not typically prescribe the drug.
"My feeling is Propecia works in most men, and between Propecia and Rogaine, we can stop their hair loss," he said.
Efudex, a skin cream that has been used for years to combat the early stages of skin cancer, may one day have a second use as a wrinkle-buster.
So suggests a small study of 21 subjects, commissioned by Valeant Pharmaceuticals, which makes the cream. The study is published in the June issue of the journal Archives of Dermatology.
Study participants who applied the cream twice daily for two weeks were able to reduce the number of potentially pre-cancerous spots on their faces. But in addition to this, researchers also found through clinical evaluation that the subjects enjoyed other improvements in aging-related damage, including fewer wrinkles, fewer dark skin spots and less hyperpigmentation.
The drug, of course, also had side effects -- primarily in the form of redness and irritation shortly after the application of the cream. And even though a number of currently available cosmetic skin treatments have similar or worse side effects, for some consumers these downsides could outweigh the benefits.
"It is possible that for some patients, topical fluorouracil may have an important role against photo-aging," lead study author Dr. Daniel Sachs of the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor said in a press release. "For others, however, it may not be cosmetically acceptable given that a standard course of therapy may last two to three weeks and the ensuing reaction can persist for several more weeks."
Still, the idea that the drug could one day enter the cosmetic armamentarium is not an outlandish one.
"Undoubtedly, there will be patients who desire a therapy such as topical fluorouracil for cosmetic purposes given the relatively low cost of this therapy compared with ... laser resurfacing," Sachs said.