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PHILADELPHIA – Women pay an average of 40 percent more than men for minoxidil foams – a hair loss remedy most commonly known as Rogaine – according to a new analysis from researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The price difference appears despite the fact that the men’s and women’s version of the products – which are branded and marketed differently -- contain the same drug strength and inactive ingredients. JAMA Dermatology published the findings online today.

“Gender-based consumer price differences are well-documented, but we believe this is the first analysis comparing the pricing of medication along gender lines,” said Jules Lipoff, MD, an assistant professor of Dermatology and the study’s lead author.

An estimated 50 million men and 30 million women in America have androgentic alopecia – otherwise known as male-pattern or female-pattern baldness. With men, it usually presents as a receding hairline, while in women, it usually causes thinning of the hair. A recent study found the global market for treatments of this condition will reach $11.8 billion by the year 2024.

Minoxidil is one of the most common products currently on the market. Originally, the product contained a five percent solution for men and a two percent solution for women, and those products are still available in pharmacies. In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the five percent solution for women. There is now a version of the product sold to both men and women as a foam. Women apply it once daily, while men are directed to use it twice per day. All of the products involved in this research are sold over-the-counter.

Lipoff and his team looked at data from 24 different pharmacies across four states and compared them by retail price. In each case, they used the price of the largest container available by volume. When prices varied between different locations within the same chain, they used the average cost.

For the foam products containing five percent minoxidil, researchers found the cost was 40 percent higher per ounce (30 mL) for women than men.

“These are products with the exact same ingredients,” Lipoff said. “They come in different amounts and packaging based on gender, so for the most part, women probably do not even realize they are paying more.”

Lipoff says the justification could be that women will get more out of the product since they require fewer daily doses, or that there could be differences in the cost of product testing, approval, and marketing, but that still leaves women paying more per ounce.

“We recommend that our female patients buy the male version of the product, because it doesn’t seem right to ask a woman to pay more when the products are, for all intents and purposes, identical.”

Lipoff’s team also compared the cost of women’s two percent solution to men’s five percent solution and found them to be virtually identical.

There is existing research to document gender-based consumer price differences. A 2015 report found women pay an average of 13 percent more than men on equivalent personal care products. But Lipoff said since most medications are not gender-specific, it’s rare to have the opportunity to compare costs this way.

“We’re just taking an objective look at the current costs,” Lipoff said. “Still, we don’t think it’s right to charge different people different prices for the exact same drug.”

Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, excellence in patient care, and community service. The organization consists of the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Penn’s Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine, founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school.

The Perelman School of Medicine is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $550 million awarded in the 2022 fiscal year. Home to a proud history of “firsts” in medicine, Penn Medicine teams have pioneered discoveries and innovations that have shaped modern medicine, including recent breakthroughs such as CAR T cell therapy for cancer and the mRNA technology used in COVID-19 vaccines.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities stretch from the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania to the New Jersey shore. These include the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Chester County Hospital, Lancaster General Health, Penn Medicine Princeton Health, and Pennsylvania Hospital—the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.

Penn Medicine is an $11.1 billion enterprise powered by more than 49,000 talented faculty and staff.

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