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Medically Approved

How to get finasteride for enlarged prostate or hair loss

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What to ask your doctorHow to get and costsEnlarged prostate medsHair loss treatmentsSummary
Finasteride is a prescription-only medication, so you cannot buy it over the counter (OTC). To get finasteride, you need to speak with a doctor who can advise whether it is a safe and suitable option for your health needs.
Medically reviewed by Alyssa Walton, PharmD
Updated on November 27, 2023

Finasteride belongs to a class of medications called 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors. It reduces the effects of an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase.

The 5-alpha-reductase enzyme converts testosterone into the sex hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which may enlarge the prostate and shrink hair follicles. That’s why finasteride is approved for conditions like enlarged prostate or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and male pattern hair loss (MPHL), which are both related to the overproduction of DHT. 

The finasteride package label instructs it is not for use in women or children. However, under specific circumstances, some healthcare professionals may prescribe the medication for excess facial hair growth in females.

Finasteride comes in a generic version, or you may also find it in the United States as brand names like Proscar, for enlarged prostate and hair loss, and Propecia, for male pattern baldness.

Proscar contains 5 mg finasteride, while Propecia contains 1 mg.

There is no OTC version of finasteride. Finasteride generic and brand versions are prescription-only medications.

What do you need to do to get finasteride from your doctor?

Man taking finasteride for hair loss checking progress in the mirror
agrobacter/Getty Images

Finasteride is a prescription-only medication, so you need to talk with a healthcare professional first. 

You can ask your medical professional for finasteride, but they’ll want to confirm you have symptoms of BPH or MPHL. They will evaluate your medical history, perform a physical exam, and possibly order tests to check whether finasteride is right for you. They may decide there are other more suitable options. 

Some factors that a doctor might consider before prescribing finasteride may include:

  • age and general health
  • the severity and effects of your symptoms
  • family history of prostate cancer or pattern baldness
  • current medications and supplements
  • allergies or sensitivities
  • personal expectations and preferences
  • whether you or your partner are likely to get pregnant

Finasteride use may lead to congenital abnormalities if taken or handled during pregnancy. Anyone who is pregnant or may become pregnant should avoid taking or handling finasteride tablets or coming into contact with the body fluids of a male who takes the medication. Consider discussing this with a healthcare professional for more information.

Check finasteride risks and side effects

A doctor may also discuss with you the possible finasteride side effects. According to the Proscar brand and Propecia brand labels, these may include:

  • decreased libido (sex drive)
  • erectile dysfunction
  • ejaculation issues
  • drop in blood pressure when standing up (orthostatic hypotension)
  • feeling mentally and physically weak (asthenia)
  • breast tenderness or enlargement
  • localized or generalized rash or itching
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • swelling in the hands or feet (peripheral edema) 

Some of the rare but serious side effects of finasteride may include:

  • depression or anxiety
  • allergic reactions
  • liver damage
  • male breast cancer
  • prostate cancer

The brand medication labels note that adverse reactions from using finasteride with other drugs are unlikely. Still, it’s best to tell a doctor about any products you use before taking finasteride.

How do you get finasteride, and how much is it?

Once you have a prescription, you can fill it at a licensed pharmacy, online, or in person. You will need to get it from the pharmacist service window since it is not an over-the-counter medication.

Finasteride comes in tablet form that you take by mouth once a day. You can have it with or without food.

The cost of finasteride may vary depending on:

  • your location
  • dosage
  • tablet quantity
  • insurance coverage
  • pharmacy

Generic finasteride is generally more affordable and works just as well as brand names.

The table below shows some cost estimates for finasteride at independent pharmacies both without coupons or insurance and using the Optum Perks Discount Card:

Finasteride versionCost without
coupons or insurance
(30 tablets)
Cost using Optum
Perks Discount Card
(30 tablets)
Generic• 1 mg: up to $76
• 5 mg: up to $81
• 1 mg: $3–$6
• 5 mg: $6–$24
Propecia• 1 mg: up to $127• 1 mg: $109–$115
Proscar• 5 mg: up to $188• 5 mg: $148–$153

Keep in mind that coupons and prescription discounts change regularly, so you may find more significant savings on some days than others.

You can use Optum Perks prescription discount programs even if you have a health insurance card, but you won’t be able to use both at the same time. You can show both of them to the pharmacist to check which offers more savings on finasteride.

If you need help covering the cost of medications, the free Optum Perks Discount Card could help you save up to 80% on prescription drugs. Follow the links on drug names for savings on that medication, or search for a specific drug here.

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Alternative meds for enlarged prostate

Medications for enlarged prostate usually relieve symptoms like urinary retention. According to a 2022 article, alternative medications to finasteride for enlarged prostate and urinary retention may include:

  • Other 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors: Another type in this class is dutasteride (Avodart).
  • Alpha-blockers: These relax the muscles in the prostate and bladder, making it easier to urinate. Examples include tamsulosin (Flomax) and alfuzosin hydrochlorideer (Uroxatral).
  • Antimuscarinics: These medications reduce smooth muscle spasms in the bladder and help reduce the feeling of urgency and frequency of urination. These include:
  • Combination therapies: Some options contain both a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor and an alpha-blocker, providing a dual action on the prostate.

Alternative treatments for male pattern hair loss

As described by a 2023 article, alternative medications and treatments for male pattern hair loss may include:

  • Other 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors: Dutasteride (Avodart) is also an option for MPHL.
  • Topical antiandrogens: These may improve blood flow and help deliver nutrients to hair follicles to promote growth, and you can buy them OTC. These include minoxidil (Rogaine).
  • Low level laser therapy: This involves using a device that emits red light to the scalp. It increases blood flow to the hair follicles, enhancing hair growth.
  • Hair transplant: Options like hair follicle extraction can be effective but costly ways to reduce the appearance of hair loss. 

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.


Finasteride treats symptoms of enlarged prostate and male pattern hair loss by blocking the conversion of testosterone into DHT, which may contribute to these conditions. To get finasteride, you need a prescription from a doctor who will assess your condition and decide whether finasteride is right for you. You can then buy finasteride from a licensed online pharmacy or in person. 

Finasteride is not the only medication that can help treat an enlarged prostate and male pattern hair loss. You can discuss alternative medications with your doctor.

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