Note: I’ve received quite a bit of negative feedback about my views on the various hair lotions and potions that are for sale and while I take it in stride, I received this great post from a longtime reader. He’s contributed some fine posts about hair lasers and the FDA in the past, and really, his post below sums up my thoughts on the issue:
I am a physician, scientist, patient, and someone who has brought several therapies for life-threatening diseases to market via my work in the biotechnology industry. I enjoy your blog. In response to posts oddly critical of your views of “Propecia, Merck, and the FDA”, I wish to add some unsolicited comments.
Occasional readers take you to task for their perception that you discredit alternate therapies. You do nothing of the sort. You simply ask, “What is the evidence for Product X’s safety and effectiveness?” To some, hearing someone say something wonderful about Product A is adequate. Unfortunately, the history of medicine is full of examples of useless products (and invasive, unsafe therapies), which fortunately have fallen out of favor after being subjected to rigorous, lengthy, and costly scientific scrutiny where adequate comparison groups (placebo) and other controls are used.
In general, alternate hair therapies are worthless and little evidence exists showing any effectiveness. Because many of these therapies are made of natural substances, they do not qualify as drugs and fall outside of the realm of the FDA (where unsupported claims of drugs can not be made without penalty). Unlike these bogus products, where there is no evidence to support their value, drug manufacturers make the summary data on the thousands of patients that underwent clinical trials supporting approval of a drug publicly available (See Drugs@FDA).
Your readers who fret about some undeclared and irreversible side effect occurring years from now for a drug can make their own decision after reading the studies that go into their approval (and supplemental postmarketing safety info). No such data exists to make informed decisions about these “alternative” therapies. And, before hearing “conspiracy theories” about how the FDA is financially beholden to drug companies, the reality is that scientists who develop therapies over many years are salaried and make no additional money based on the success of development (although obviously the drug company does). Do you think the health care proponents of alternative therapies are similarly financially removed?