Minoxidil is easy to come by in its topical form, with a number of over-the-counter products just a brief trip to the shops away. Oral minoxidil, on the other hand, requires a prescription and is therefore not available to everyone.
This guide explains how to get an oral minoxidil prescription, answering common questions about the process. It also explains what oral minoxidil is, whether prescriptions are covered by insurance, and who the drug may or may not be appropriate for.
What is oral minoxidil?
Oral minoxidil was introduced in the 1970s as a treatment for refractory hypertension (uncontrolled blood pressure even after near-maximal therapy). A frequent side effect of this treatment was hypertrichosis - excessive hair growth. Both topical and oral minoxidil options have been developed since then to try and provide these hair growth effects in a positive manner.
Oral vs topical minoxidil
Topical minoxidil is known to many as Rogaine, although it is also sold under other brand names. Although effective and popular, topical minoxidil often has low patient compliance. Frequently cited reasons for poor compliance include the need to apply topical minoxidil twice a day, the cost of indefinite use, side effects including scalp irritation and shedding, and undesirable hair texture.
Returning to the original form of the drug, in recent years low-dose oral minoxidil for hair growth has proved to be an effective and often better-tolerated alternative to topical options.
How does oral minoxidil work?
The exact mechanisms by which oral minoxidil works are not fully known. This review highlights that minoxidil is a vasodilator, an anti-inflammatory and an antiandrogen, and acknowledges a possible theory that minoxidil works for hair growth by changing the length of the anagen and telogen phases. We have an explanation of the phases of the hair growth cycle here.
It is important to note here that minoxidil must be applied indefinitely in order to maintain its effect on hair.
How do I get an oral minoxidil prescription?
Oral minoxidil for hair loss is an off-label treatment. This means the FDA has approved oral minoxidil for use as a treatment for something other than hair loss - in this case, hypertension. Off-label prescriptions are common and legitimate, although whether you get a prescription may be less predictable with off-label treatments than on-label treatments.
Who can prescribe oral minoxidil?
Doctors and pharmacists can prescribe oral minoxidil. Who precisely has the power to prescribe medication does however depend on the state you live in.
Due to potentially significant side effects and reactions, the relevant professional will have to review your medical history before prescribing oral minoxidil.
What information do I need to provide?
To get an oral minoxidil prescription you should be prepared to provide information about medical history and any medication you are taking, which may even include details of supplements and vitamins.
Can you order oral minoxidil online?
Yes. There are various online services through which you can get an oral minoxidil prescription. You will need to submit information through an online system, which will then be reviewed by a licensed healthcare provider in a given timeframe.
While this can be safe and convenient, it is extremely important to be careful when ordering medication online. To be on the safe side, we recommend reading the FDA guidance on buying medicines online.
Is oral minoxidil covered by insurance?
Sometimes. Oral minoxidil is often covered by insurance, but not always.
Oral minoxidil is often covered by insurance due to it being a FDA-approved treatment for hypertension. Topical minoxidil, on the other hand, is not covered by insurance.
For certainty, you should look at your insurer’s website to review their prescription list or contact your insurer directly. Oral minoxidil is a relatively cheap drug, although the need to use it indefinitely makes the cost more significant in the long term.
What if I can’t get a prescription?
Not everyone will be able to get an oral minoxidil prescription for hair loss. If you are refused a prescription, it is likely your doctor or pharmacist will explain the reasons why and highlight oral minoxidil alternatives.
Oral minoxidil will not be appropriate for everyone. Side effects can be severe, and for many people there are preferable options.
Oral minoxidil side effects
The observed side effects of minoxidil are varied. For example, some people will experience hair growth beyond that which they desired or expected, while for others minoxidil can cause hair loss. Likewise, while some people will experience side effects like scalp irritation while taking the drug, others will only experience minoxidil side effects after stopping.
Research states that hypertrichosis and postural hypotension (a drop in blood pressure upon standing up) are the most common side effects of oral minoxidil. Minoxidil shedding and lower limb edema were noted as side effects in other studies.
Should you get an oral minoxidil prescription? Here are some minoxidil alternatives to consider.
The most obvious alternative to oral minoxidil is topical minoxidil, which does not need a prescription. However, given oral minoxidil is most often sought by those for whom topical minoxidil hasn’t worked well, a non-minoxidil alternative will often be best.One alternative is ProCelinyl, which provides a completely safe option for supporting the appearance of thicker, fuller hair. This was discovered by scientists who used a cutting-edge AI machine to sift through millions of ingredients to find a hair loss solution that is both safe and effective. Unlike minoxidil, where impact on hair growth was observed as a side effect of a hypertension drug, ProCelinyl is a targeted option specifically selected for its impact on the appearance of hair. Visible results also come much quicker, with ProCelinyl having an impact within 6-8 weeks and minoxidil requiring a minimum of 3-6 months. We have compared these two options in detail in a previous explainer: minoxidil vs ProCelinyl.