Rogaine is the brand name for a drug called minoxidil, developed, manufactured, and marketed by the Upjohn Pharmaceuticals Company. First offered to the public in 1988, minoxidil was promoted as the first successful cure for baldness. With an estimated 66 percent of men experiencing some hair loss by the age of thirty-five, according to Upjohn, and many women who also have hair loss, the new drug had many potential users hoping for a miracle cure. Within a few years, however, it became apparent that its effects were real, but short of miraculous.
Throughout the ages men have sought cures for baldness, mostly without success. Upjohn discovered the effects of minoxidil by accident in the mid-1970s. Researchers noticed that the subjects in a study concerning high blood pressure began to grow hair on their heads and faces. Soon they dropped the blood pressure tests and began to test the new drug as a cure for baldness. Once tests were complete, they introduced the new drug to the public in the form of a lotion named Rogaine, available by doctor's prescription.
Upjohn counted on men's desperation to find a cure for baldness to sell their product. They also introduced the first advertisements for a prescription drug that directly addressed the public. Their television and print ads for Rogaine discussed a problem that many men, and some women, had been afraid to talk about. People rushed to try the new product. By 1991, just three years after its introduction, over two million men worldwide used Rogaine, and by 1992 worldwide sales had reached $200 million.
The new drug was not without problems, however. Rogaine only successfully grew hair on about 10 percent of those who used it. Another 35 percent grew soft, short fuzz rather than normal hair. For many the drug did not work at all. In addition, it was fairly expensive to use, about seven hundred dollars for the first year and three hundred to six hundred dollars each year after that. The reality of the drug's performance hurt sales, but in 1995 Upjohn got permission from the Food and Drug Administration to sell the product over-the-counter, without a prescription, and many more people tried the drug, which was still used as a lotion. The company has made other efforts to improve sales, marketing a special Rogaine for women and offering a money-back guarantee.