Editorial Note: Following a redesign of the website in 2015, the Hair Zone mentioned in this article now works differently. You can search for hair related side effects in the Drugs A-Z section. Side effects can be reported using the main “Report a Side Effect” function.
RxISK.org, the first free independent website for researching and reporting prescription drug side effects, has just added a Hair Zone to both highlight and to collect more data on the links between prescription drugs and our hair.
“CSI fans know that the most accurate way to identify the drugs a person takes is to analyze hair samples,” says Dr. David Healy, RxISK.org CEO. “Hair accumulates drugs when people take them and laboratory hair sample tests are legally and scientifically recognized as admissible evidence in courts around the world. Long before drug effects on hair are widely known, hair stylists are likely to be the earliest observers. Truth be told, your hairdresser could tell you a lot about you and the drugs you take.”
Dr. Dee Mangin, RxISK.org’s Chief Medical Officer explains, “it makes sense that this accumulation has effects on the hair itself. In the sixties women and their hair stylists were the first to identify changes in hair consistency caused by the use of oral contraceptives: it was discovered that oral contraceptives caused women’s hair to thin – both during use and after. But it’s not just The Pill – a lot of commonly used drugs cause hair side effects including blood pressure medications, cholesterol drugs, and antidepressants. Some of the most commonly used drugs in Britain and North America have thinning effects on hair. But its not just hair thinning – drugs can really cause problems with the way hair treatments like colours, extensions and waves ‘take’.”
Kaye Briden, owner of Yazu Hair Lounge in New Zealand, has over 30 years experience in the industry. She says “over the years, hair stylists have come to learn that antidepressants can cause hair to dry out and thin to the point that it won’t take extensions; chemotherapy causes hair to fall out and grow back a different color; and when a color doesn’t take in a person’s hair it is likely because of some medication he or she is taking. But up until now there has been no way to highlight or share this knowledge.”
Dr. Dee Mangin, says, “men, women and their stylists know more about the effect of drugs on hair than anyone else. These effects can be devastating, but because there is no current way to share this information the link to treatment is often not made by patients and their doctors. Until we pool the collective wisdom men and women and their hairdressers have, and make it accessible, it will not be useful. This is what the RxISK Hair Zone is all about.”
Kaye Briden agrees “hair stylists are in the best position to understand what is happening to the hair and why, and to help clients with these effects. There is for example a yellowing of hair that’s due to hormonal changes or treatment. We will often know from your hair that you are pregnant before you do.”
Not all effects are negative says Mangin. “A famous drug discovery in recent years, Latisse, was revealed when women noticed an involuntary thickening and elongation of their eyelashes while using an eye-drop.”
The RxISK Hair Zone has been designed so people can look up and report specifically the effects of drugs on hair and the use of hair products and treatments.
RxISK.org allows users to enter the name of a prescription drug and see the side effects that have been reported to the FDA since 2004, as well as to RxISK, for more than 35,000 drug names from 103 countries. The data is presented in tables, tag clouds, heat maps, and interactive graphs, showing what’s happening with other people taking the same drug around the world.
Users can then select the effect(s) they are experiencing and click on Report a Drug Side Effect to complete a report. They get a personalized RxISK Report linking their symptoms and meds, which they can take to their doctor or pharmacist to facilitate a better treatment conversation. This will also add their anonymized experience to the RxISK database so that others can benefit from this information.
RxISK.org is owned and operated by Data Based Medicine Americas Ltd. (DBM), based in Toronto, Canada. DBM’s founders have international reputations in early drug-side-effect detection and risk mitigation, pharmacovigilance, and patient-centered care. Although drug side effects are known to be a leading cause of death and disability, less than 5% of serious drug side effects are reported. DBM’s mission is to capture this missing data directly from patients through RxISK’s free drug side effect reporting tool and use this data to help make medicines safer for all of us.
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