Generic Propecia (Finasteride) vs. Merck Propecia: What’s the Difference?

Kristin Hall, FNP

Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Published 07/15/2019

Updated 05/24/2021

Worried about losing your hair? According to data from the National Library of Medicine, an estimated 50 million men are affected by androgenic alopecia (also commonly referred to as male pattern baldness) in the US alone.

Put simply, hair loss is very common. Luckily, it’s an issue that can be slowed down and often prevented through modern medicine. 

Today, hair loss medications like Propecia® can limit the extent of your hair loss by preventing your body from producing DHT, the hormone that’s responsible for causing baldness. 

Like other medications, Propecia is sold under its original brand name and as a generic under the name of its active ingredient, finasteride

Below, we’ve listed the main differences between generic Propecia (finasteride) and the brand name Propecia manufactured by Merck.

What is Merck Propecia?

Propecia is a medication that’s manufactured and marketed by Merck & Co., Inc., which is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. 

Merck developed finasteride throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, originally as a treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or prostate enlargement. 

The medication was first approved by the FDA in 1992 and originally went onto the market as Proscar®.

Each Proscar tablet contains 5mg of finasteride. This higher dose is designed specifically as a treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). 

In 1997, the FDA approved a second medication called Propecia — a lower-dose, 1mg version of Proscar intended to treat male pattern baldness.

This hair loss medication is designed for daily use by men who have symptoms of male pattern baldness, such as a receding hairline, baldness around the crown of the head or other signs of hair loss

Studies show that finasteride, the active ingredient in Propecia, is highly effective as a treatment for male pattern baldness. 

In a two-year trial, researchers found that daily use of finasteride at a 1mg dosage “slowed the progression of hair loss and increased hair growth” in men with male pattern hair loss.

A review of finasteride’s use as a treatment for male pattern baldness produced similar findings, concluding that oral finasteride “promotes scalp hair growth” and “prevents further hair loss in a significant proportion of men with male pattern hair loss.”

Finasteride works by stopping the production of a hormone called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, which can bind to receptors in your scalp and damage your hair follicles.

DHT is produced in your body as a byproduct of testosterone. By preventing the conversion of testosterone into DHT, finasteride reduces DHT levels throughout your body and shields your hair follicles from damage.

Our guide to DHT and male pattern baldness explains this process and the effects of DHT on your hair in more detail.

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What is Generic Propecia (Finasteride)?

Like many other medications that have been on the market for several decades, Propecia is available as a brand name medication and as a generic. 

Generic Propecia, which is often referred to simply as finasteride, contains the same ingredient as the brand name Propecia sold by Merck. 

It has the same effects within your body and is just as effective at slowing down or preventing the effects of male pattern baldness. 

Like brand name Propecia, generic finasteride comes in tablet form and is designed to be taken daily at a dosage of 1mg. 

If you have a prescription for finasteride, you’ll be able to choose between purchasing the brand name Propecia produced by Merck or generic finasteride.

Finasteride vs. Propecia Dosage

Finasteride, the active ingredient in Propecia, is available in several forms and is typically used at several different dosages.

Brand name Propecia is sold exclusively as a 1mg tablet. Each tablet is intended for daily use, making it easy to take the typical 1mg of finasteride per day with this form of the medication. 

Generic finasteride is available in several dosages. You may see this medication sold in 1mg or 5mg tablets. 

The 1mg version of generic finasteride is intended for use as a hair loss treatment. Just like with brand name Propecia, this medication should be taken one time per day to treat hair loss.

The 5mg version of generic finasteride is generally used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. 

If you have BPH, your healthcare provider may prescribe this medication on its own or for use with other types of medication, such as an alpha-blocker.

This dosage of finasteride is not designed for use as a treatment for male pattern baldness and should not be used for this purpose.

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Propecia vs. Generic Finasteride Side Effects

Finasteride is a safe, effective medication for most men. However, like many other medications, it can cause side effects. 

Common side effects of finasteride include:

  • Reduced sex drive

  • Erectile dysfunction

  • Decreased ejaculatory volume

  • Breast tenderness and/or enlargement (gynecomastia)

  • Skin rash

While these side effects might sound alarming, they only affect a small percentage of men who use finasteride to treat hair loss.

Because brand name Propecia and generic finasteride contain the same active ingredient, they both cause side effects at an equal rate.

Our guide to the side effects of finasteride covers some of the most common adverse effects of finasteride in detail, explaining how and why they can happen.

Propecia vs. Generic Finasteride Price

While brand name Propecia and generic finasteride are identical in terms of function, they differ substantially when it comes to price.

As a brand name medication manufactured by a major drug company, Propecia is significantly more expensive on a per-tablet basis than generic finasteride. 

A month’s supply of brand name Propecia generally costs between $110 and $160 from most major pharmacies (but this can change depending upon the pharmacy, insurance co-pay, deductibles, and prices).

In comparison, a month’s supply of generic finasteride generally costs between $20 and $60, depending on the specific brand you choose and the pharmacy from which you purchase the medication. 

Our full guide to finasteride pricing goes into greater detail about how much you can expect to spend on finasteride to manage your hair loss.

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Which One Should You Choose?

The brand name medication Propecia produced by Merck and generic finasteride both contain the same active ingredient, meaning you’ll get identical effects from both medications. 

If you’re losing your hair, both medications will reduce your DHT levels and slow down, stop or potentially reverse the effects of male pattern baldness.

We offer generic finasteride online, following a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.

For better results, you may want to consider using finasteride with minoxidil, a topical treatment for hair loss that works by stimulating hair growth.

Research has found that finasteride and minoxidil are more effective at stopping hair loss when they’re used together.

We offer both medications together in our Hair Power Pack, along with a large selection of other hair loss treatments

You can learn more about the potential causes of hair loss and common signs you may notice if you’re starting to lose your hair in our guide to male pattern baldness.

8 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Androgenetic alopecia. (2020, August 18). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/androgenetic-alopecia/
  2. PROSCAR® (finasteride) Tablets. (2013, September). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2014/020180s044lbl.pdf
  3. Propecia. (1997, December 19). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/nda/97/020788_propecia_toc.cfm
  4. Kaufman, K.D., et al. (1998, October). Finasteride in the treatment of men with androgenetic alopecia. Finasteride Male Pattern Hair Loss Study Group. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 39 (4 Pt 1), 578-89. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9777765/
  5. McClellan, K.F. & Markham, A. (1999, January). Finasteride: a review of its use in male pattern hair loss. Drugs. 57 (1), 111-26. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9951956/
  6. Zito, P.M., Vistas, K.G. & Syed, K. (2020, October 27). Finasteride. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513329/
  7. PROPECIA® (finasteride) tablets for oral use. (2012, April). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2012/020788s020s021s023lbl.pdf
  8. Hu, R., et al. (2015, June 2). Combined treatment with oral finasteride and topical minoxidil in male androgenetic alopecia: a randomized and comparative study in Chinese patients. Dermatologic Therapy. 28 (5), 303-308. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/dth.12246

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.