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Physician and pharmacist team up to offer hair loss solutions

What started as a search for a solution became an entrepreneurial venture.

When Dr. Houfar Sekhavat, an ophthalmologist from Moncton, began to experience hair loss a decade ago, he did something about it. He teamed up with pharmacist Peter Ford, also from Moncton, and the pair quite literally came up with a solution.

Dr. Sekhavat began researching the topic, and came up with a formula of three molecules. After testing it on himself, he contacted Ford for help compounding and more rigorous testing. The result of their collaboration is a topical formulation called TH07, comprised of minoxidil 5%, finasteride 0.1% and latanoprost 0.03%. It also contains propylene glycol, ethyl alcohol anhydrous and ethoxy diglycol.

When initial studies showed that TH07 worked, Dr. Sekhavat formed a company called Triple Hair in 2014. Physicians can prescribe TH07 for patients through the Triple Hair website.

While the medicinal ingredients have existed as hair loss treatments alone for many years, the combination is new. “For family physicians to offer a new solution, I think a lot of them will be excited,” Dr. Sekhavat said

The company ran a proof-of-concept study with fifty patients with androgenic alopecia. Twenty-three patients were given TH07 formulation, and their hair growth was documented by a professional photographer with standardized lighting. Dr. Anik LePage, a dermatologist in Moncton, acted as a blind assessor to rate hair growth, rating it as mild, moderate or dense. The mild result meant there was clinical evidence of hair growth, but it may not be noticeable to the casual observer. 

While the results have not yet been published, Dr. Sekhavat explained that all patients who used TH07 saw hair regrowth after four to six months of use. “You don’t get that a lot in medicine,” Dr. Sekhavat said.

Of those who received TH07, 52% had dense regrowth, 30% had moderate regrowth and 17% achieved mild regrowth. The patients randomized to receive finasteride 0.1%, latanoprost 0.03% or minoxidil 5% alone had no dense regrowth, and only one patient had moderate regrowth, with finasteride. Previous animal studies found no acute dermal toxicity or phototoxicity, Dr. Sekhavat said.

Read: Five clinical pearls: Hair beware

A future phase two and three randomized clinical trial is planned for 2023. It will evaluate six months of treatment with TH07 in patients with androgenic alopecia aged 20 to 50 years old. Patients will be recruited from a number of countries.

Since he started using TH07 eight years ago, Dr. Sekhavat has benefited from moderate regrowth with continuous use. He has a propylene glycol allergy, but Ford was able to compound a solution without it.

The TH07 formulation targets a more than one hair growth pathway. To address hair loss, “I really believe you have address more than one factor” Dr. Sekhavat said. Triple Hair company documents point out how the ingredients each engage with different processes of hair loss:

  • Minoxidil modulates the androgen receptor function, increases vasodilation and stimulates prostaglandin production.
  • Finasteride blocks the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which binds to the androgen receptor and contributes to miniaturization of hair follicles.
  • Laranoprost stimulates the transition of hair from telogen phase to anagen phase.

Right now, TH07 is compounded in Ford’s pharmacy, Ford’s Family Pharmacy and Wellness Centre in Moncton. It comes in a metered pump, with 0.2 mL per pump. Most people need five pumps per application, and one application is needed per day. Triple Hair is planning on commercializing the product once results from the clinical trial are available.

The Triple Hair company also sells two patented over-the-counter products: RIZN, marketed for men and Plenty Natural, marketed for women. They contain melatonin and resveratrol. Plenty Natural also includes pea sprout protein.

“The idea was that not everyone wanted a chemical treatment. More and more, people want to go natural,” Dr. Sekhavat. He noted that finasteride (and TH07) can’t be used by women of child-bearing age and Plenty Natural may provide an alternative solution.

Initial studies showed the products were comparable to minoxidil 5% when it came to hair regrowth. Resveratrol affects prostaglandin production, known to be part of hair growth, but how melatonin influences hair growth is not fully known, Dr. Sekhavat said. More studies are planned.

Read: QUIZ: Test your knowledge of alopecia areata

The RIZN and Plenty Natural sprays are to be used continuously, and results should be apparent after three months, with optimal results after six months. Retail price is suggested at $60 for a 60 mL bottle. A pill is also available, with instructions to take two a day. Sixty pills cost $60. The company recommends both are used at the same time for best results. If it doesn’t work after six months, Triple Hair sales director Jean Lachapelle suggests trying something else.

Triple Hair has big plans for the future. As well as the clinical trial for TH07, it is focused on launching new products for people experiencing hair loss. One is a derma-roller which uses micro-needles to stimulate blood flow in the scalp. Another is Hair Loss Rx Consult, a telehealth platform due to launch in August or September.

Dr. Sekhavat said physicians or pharmacists interested in becoming entrepreneurs should believe in their product. “If you really believe in what you have then you have a good chance of being successful down the road,” he said.

Still a practicing ophthalmologist, Dr. Sekhavat put a lot of his own money into the company. “When people see you’ve invested in your product, they trust you. Once they see that it works, they support you,” he said.

He also credited the team he’s brought in to help, including Ford, Lachapelle and chief scientific officer Satish Asotra.

He cautioned future entrepreneurs to be prepared for ups and downs. “It is hard in the biotech environment,” he said.

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