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Systematic (IUPAC) name
CAS number 38304-91-5
ATC code C02DC01 D11AX01
PubChem 4201
DrugBank APRD00086
Chemical data
Formula C9H15N5O 
Mol. mass 209.251 g/mol
Pharmacokinetic data
Bioavailability  ?
Metabolism Primarily hepatic
Half life 4.2 hours
Excretion renal
Therapeutic considerations
Pregnancy cat.


Legal status

P(UK) for topical use, otherwise POM

Routes Oral / topical

Minoxidil is a vasodilator and was exclusively used as an oral drug (Loniten®) to treat high blood pressure. It was, however, discovered to have the interesting side-effect of hair growth and reversing baldness, and in the 1980s, Upjohn Corporation produced a topical solution that contained 2% minoxidil to be used to treat baldness and hair loss, under the brand name Rogaine in the United States, and Regaine outside the United States. Treatments usually include a 5% concentration solutions that are designed for men, whereas the 2% concentration solutions are designed for women. It is unknown how the drug stimulates hair growth.

In 2007 a novel, foam-based formulation of 5% Minoxidil was shown to be an effective treatment of androgenetic alopecia without the usual side-effects of the topical solution. [1]

Minoxidil is a "potassium channel agonist." It contains the chemical structure of nitric oxide (NO), a blood vessel dilator, and may be a nitric oxide agonist. This may explain minoxidil's ability to stimulate hair growth and treat hair loss. Since minoxidil is a nitric oxide-related compound, it was suspected to act via activation of guanylate cyclase, an enzyme involved in vasodilation, however there are no reports of cGMP or PKG activation to date. [2]

Minoxidil is less effective when there is a large area of hair loss. In addition, its effectiveness has largely been demonstrated in younger men (18 to 41 years of age) and in those with balding in the central (vertex) portion of the scalp. [3]

The patent on minoxidil expired on February 13, 1996.[4]


As a drug to combat hair loss, the most common side effect is itchy scalp. In some cases minoxidil may initially cause an increase in hair loss.

There have been cases of allergic reactions to minoxidil or the non-active ingredient propylene glycol, which is found in some forms of the topical version, such as Rogaine. Large amounts of minoxidil can cause hypotension, and it has been found that using petroleum jelly or tretinoin on the scalp with minoxidil can cause too much of the drug absorption by the scalp, as can using the drug on sunburned scalps.

If a person uses minoxidil to stop hair loss for a length of time and then stops taking the drug, hair loss will occur again.

Other side-effects include:

  • acne on the area where it is being used as a topical solution
  • headaches and/or lightheadedness
  • very low blood pressure
  • irregular or fast heart beat
  • blurred vision
  • chest pain

All the side-effects in the above list except for acne may be an indicator that too much of the drug is being used.

It has also been found that the drug can be passed from a mother to a child via breast milk.

See also

  • Baldness treatments


  • Minoxidil entry at
  • MEDLINEplus Drug Information: Minoxidil (Topical)
  1. ^ Olsen EA, Whiting D, Bergfeld W, Miller J, Hordinsky M, Wanser R, Zhang P, Kohut B (2007). "A multicenter, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial of a novel formulation of 5% minoxidil topical foam versus placebo in the treatment of androgenetic alopecia in men". J Am Acad Dermatol.. PMID 17761356.
  2. ^ Alopecia & Free Radical "Redox" Signaling--Nitric Oxide and Superoxide. Retrieved on 2006-08-09.
  3. ^ Medical Treatments for Balding in Men American Family PhysicianApril 15, 1999
  4. ^ [1]
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Minoxidil". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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