HealthDay News — A drug used for rheumatoid arthritis might regrow hair in alopecia areata (AA) patients, according to a study published online September 22 in JCI Insight.

Brett King, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, and colleagues included patients with AA with >50% scalp hair loss, alopecia totalis (AT), and alopecia universalis (AU). Participants were treated with 5mg of tofacitinib citrate (Xeljanz) twice a day for three months. The team assessed regrowth of scalp hair (via severity of alopecia tool [SALT]), duration of hair growth after cessation of therapy, and disease transcriptome.

The researchers found that 32% of 66 patients treated with tofacitinib citrate experienced 50% or greater improvement in SALT score. AA cases were more responsive than AT and AU cases. Disease relapse occurred in 8.5 weeks following drug cessation. Side effects were mild, limited to grade I and II infections.

“At the dose and duration studied, tofacitinib is a safe and effective treatment for severe AA, though it does not result in a durable response,” the authors write. “Transcriptome changes reveal unexpected molecular complexity within the disease.”

One author disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, which manufactures tofacitinib citrate.

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