Flutamide and PCOS: Using Medication to Treat Excess Body Hair

How Flutamide Is Used for Common PCOS Symptoms Like Unwanted Facial Hair

The flutamide drug molecule.
The flutamide drug molecule. MOLEKUUL/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common endocrine disorder among reproductive-aged women, is characterized with hyperandrogenism (high levels of male hormones, like testosterone) and ovulatory dysfunction.

Some of the most distressing symptoms women with PCOS experience involves hair: loss of hair and too much body hair (hirsutism). The results of a study published in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed journal, found that hirsutism had the strongest impact on the health-related quality of life measures in Iranian women diagnosed with PCOS.

Not only does the effects of hirsutism take up a considerable amount of time to manage and impact quality of life, but also self-esteem.

Women with PCOS who suffer from the effects of hirsutism may be prescribed Flutamide, a medication that works as an anti-androgen.

How Flutamide Works

Flutamide (generic name Eulexin), works by blocking androgens, which are a group of hormones that play a role in male traits and reproductive activity.

70-80% of women with excess androgens demonstrate hirsutism. Androgens increase the growth rate of hair and transform short, fine, light-colored, baby hairs (vellus hair) to thick, long, and darker (terminal hair). When androgens are reduced, new hair growth is reduced and the growth of existing terminal hair is reduced.

Flutamide blocks androgen receptors on hair follicle cells so androgens can't connect to the receptors. When androgens in the hair follicles are blocked, PCOS-related hair loss and hirsutism lessen.

This may decrease the symptoms of PCOS, specifically the excess hair growth associated with PCOS, though Flutamide has not been approved by the FDA for this use.

Many women who take Flutamide notice thicker hair and less body and facial hair. A positive aspect of Flutamide is that it is non-steroidal and does't affect kidney function like other anti-androgens.

Flutamide does not work quickly. Hair grows at different times and the growth phase varies according to the area of the body, for full growth, this cycle of growth is approximately 4 months for facial hair. This is why it is recommended to give anti-androgen therapy more than 6 months to be fully effective.

Dosage & Side Effects

Typical dosage of Flutamide for PCOS is 125 mg or 250 mg capsules two to three times a day. Please refer to your doctor directions for the correct dosage amounts for your condition. Always follow the advice of your doctor before starting any medication regimen.

Some of the common side effects of Flutamide include:

  • drowsiness
  • depression
  • confusion
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • hot flashes
  • loss of libido
  • rash
  • swelling
  • dry skin
  • birth defects

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Contact your physician if you experience any of the following side effects.

Other Instructions

Regular blood tests are recommended to assess liver and blood function and prevent toxicity from taking Flutamide.

It is very important that you don't get pregnant while taking Flutamide, due to the potential risk to the developing fetus. Make sure to use an effective form of birth control and do not breastfeed while taking this drug. Report any unusual side effects to your physician promptly.

Sources:

Mahnaz Bahri Khomami, Fahimeh Ramezani Tehrani,Somayeh Hashemi,Maryam Farahmand,and Fereidoun Azizi. Of PCOS Symptoms, Hirsutism Has the Most Significant Impact on the Quality of Life of Iranian Women. PLoS One. 2015; 10(4): e0123608.

Ibanez L, Potau N, Marcos MV, de Zegher F. Treatment of hirsutism, hyperandrogenism, oligomenorrhea, dyslipidemia, and hyperinsulinism in nonobese, adolescent girls: effect of flutamide. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000 Sep;85(9):3251-5.

Muderris II, Bayram F, Guven M. Treatment of hirsutism with lowest-dose flutamide (62.5 mg/day). Gynecol Endocrinol. 2000 Feb;14(1):38-41.

Muderris II, Bayram F, Guven M. A prospective, randomized trial comparing flutamide (250 mg/d) and finasteride (5 mg/d) in the treatment of hirsutism. Fertil Steril. 2000 May;73(5):984-7.

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