Has the solution to alopecia finally arrived?
Alopecia is a medical condition characterized by partial or complete hair loss. This meta description provides a concise overview of alopecia, highlighting its nature and indicating it as a medical condition related to hair loss.
The US drug regulator has given the go-ahead to a drug that is growing hair in large numbers of patientsThe US Medicines Regulatory Authority has given the green light to a drug that treats alopecia areata, as it grows hair in large numbers of patients alopecia
The severity of alopecia varies from person to person, but for many people the complete loss of hair – even eyelashes and eyebrows, nose and ear hair – can be life-changing. Until recently, there was no treatment available to those suffering from alopecia areata to regrow hair.
Now, however, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the marketing of baricitinib, a drug made by Lilly that makes it possible for hair to grow by preventing the immune system from attacking follicles of the hairs Two other drugmakers, Pfizer and Concert, are about to bring similar drugs, known as Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors, to market. In fact, these drugs are already on the market, but they are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. The green light from the FDA is important because it allows insurance costs to be covered for expensive medicines: the price of the treatment is around 2,400 euros per month.
Lilly’s medicine has passed two test periods, sponsored by the company, and the results of which appeared in May in the New England Journal of Medicine ; 1,200 patients with severe alopecia areata participated. Almost 40% of those who took part in the tests experienced full or partial hair growth after 36 weeks. A year later,almost half of the patients had regained their hair.
Dr. Brett King, professor of dermatology at Yale University, was the researcher who led the two tests and is also at the head of the tests that the other companies do. He is convinced that the success rate will end up being higher. Manufacturers may succeed in improving JAK inhibitors for alopecia areata. And once all three companies have their products on the market, patients who don’t respond to one treatment could respond to any of the others.
Patients who participated in Lilly’s experiments had relatively minor side effects, such as a small risk of acne, and some infections, such as urinary tract infections. These are side effects that are easy to treat or that even get better without any treatment.
The results of Lilly’s tests are “impressive”, Dr Andrew Messenger of the University of Sheffield and Matthew Harries of the University of Manchester point out in a joint article. Both claim that the results of the study “are the first of a phase 3 that have ever been published of a treatment for this disease”.
In the US, more than 300,000 people suffer from the severe form of alopecia areata, according to data from the FDA. The impact of the disease is undeniable, says Dr. King.
For most people with alopecia areata, the condition manifests itself as small patches of hairlessness on the head. But in some cases the symptoms are much worse. One day they notice they have little patches of hairless hair, but three months or even three weeks later they’ve lost all their body hair.
Specialists consider Dr. King as the expert who most believed in the possibilities of JAK inhibitors to treat alopecia areata. He explains how it all started when he read three studies presented at various conferences in 2012 and 2013. These studies, led by Drs. Raphael Clynes and Angela Christiano of Columbia University and conducted in mice, were the first to indicate that JAK inhibitors can reverse alopecia areata.
The case of Kyle
Shortly thereafter, Kyle, a 25-year-old man, went to see Dr. King for psoriasis treatment. He had virtually no hair and large patches of psoriasis on his head and body. “I looked at him and said, ‘You have alopecia areata,'” explains Dr. King.
Kyle had started experiencing severe hair loss the day he wore a hat to a high school dance. He went to the toilet, took off his hat and was horrified to find a lock of hair inside. “It’s like an episode of The Unknown Dimension ,” says King. He looked at Kyle and said, “If you want to try something a little bold that’s never been tried before, there’s an approved treatment for rheumatoid arthritis that’s starting to be used for psoriasis From the tests done on mice, it looks like it might work.”
Kyle agreed to take tofacitinib, a JAK inhibitor made by Pfizer and similar to Lilly’s drug. Eight months later I had hair again.
Dr. King’s publication of a study with Kyle’s results encouraged several dermatologists to try JAK inhibitors. One of those professionals was Dr. Maryanne Makredes Senna, director of the hair loss center at Beth Israel Lahey Health in Massachusetts. Senna got some insurance companies to cover the costs of the drugs.
“It was incredible to see the impact that the new treatment had,” explains Senna, who has worked for Lilly and Pfizer. “They arrive without hair, not wanting to have a social life, avoiding looking people in the eye. And then they return to the consultation and tell you: “I have found my life again, I have found myself again”.
Dr. Natasha Atanaskova Mesinkovska, chief executive of the National Alopecia Areata Foundation and professor of dermatology at the University of California, Irvine, helped drug companies find patients for the various tests. And she, too, was impressed with the results of those who reacted positively to the drugs.
Allergies and hearing
Hair loss, when it is severe, not only “steals people’s identity” but is “a disease”, he explains, adding that the loss of hair in the ears and nose has consequences on the ability to hear and the development of allergies.
Christian Daniels, a 27-year-old data technician living in Illinois, explains how hair loss affected his eyes. Without eyelashes, the dust would get into his eyes and make them so irritated that he had to put petroleum jelly on his eyelids. She started losing her hair when she was 25; in just one month he lost all his body hair. The covid was “a blessing” because it allowed him to work from home. “I had the feeling that my life was on standby – he explains – and I came to believe that the only thing that really mattered was having hair again”.
Searching the internet he found the tests that Lilly was conducting. “Now I almost feel like it never happened,” she says, although images still pop into her head when she looks in the mirror and remembers what it was like without her hair.
The case of children
Dr. Brittany Craiglow, a Connecticut dermatologist married to Dr. King, explains how alopecia areata is especially difficult for children. One of her patients, Cassidy Mackwell, lost her hair when she was 8 years old. When adults saw her they thought she had cancer. “People came up to him when we were in a restaurant – says the mother, Melissa Mackwell -, they hugged him and said: “I’m very sorry, don’t stop fighting”. Some even wanted to pay for our meal.”
One of Craiglow’s patients, Brooke Nelson, who lives in New Jersey, completely lost her blonde hair when she was in first grade. She was so embarrassed that her mother, Danielle Nelson, decided to home school her. He took her from clinic to clinic, from doctor to doctor, but to no avail.
“I would have given my house, everything I have, for Brooke to get her hair back,” says the mother, who was about to take her daughter to China for stem cell therapy when she went to stop with Dr. Craiglow, who prescribed a JAK inhibitor. Her hair grew back.
“It was a miracle,” says Danielle Melson.
Copyright The New York Times