A medication commonly used for rheumatoid arthritis may also help treat alopecia areata, a common autoimmune disorder that often results in unpredictable hair loss, a study from the Yale School of Medicine found. A team of researchers led by Dr. Brett King tested the use of baricitinib (Olumiant), a prescription medication for the treatment of moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis. “We think baricitinib works by interrupting the messaging between hair follicles and immune cells that lead to immune cells attacking hair follicles and ultimately hair loss,” Dr. King told. 1,200 people participated in two large, randomized trials.
They had good results: 1 in 3 people regrow hair after severak weeks of use. That means that patients who have had the most resistant disease to other treatments and those with severe disease now have an option that is likely going to work. However, the drug isn’t without side effects. According to researchers, the most common side effects among study participants were acne, elevated levels of creatine kinase, and increased levels of low- and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. The alopecia areata can affect anyone regardless of age and gender, though most cases occur before the age of 30. The most common form of alopecia areata treatment is the use of corticosteroids, powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that can suppress the immune system. There is currently no cure for alopecia areata, which affects 147 million people globally.This one, found now, is promising. “This is so exciting,” Dr King said. “The data clearly show how effective baricitinib is.” It remains to be seen if baricitinib proves to be effective in the long term.