Arthritis drug spurs hair regrowth in alopecia patient

June 24, 2014

A Yale University dermatologist says the rheumatoid arthritis drug tofacitinib citrate allowed a patient with alopecia universalis to grow a full head of hair.

A Yale University dermatologist says the rheumatoid arthritis drug tofacitinib citrate allowed a patient with alopecia universalis to grow a full head of hair.

The 25-year-old male patient was referred to the department of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine for treatment of psoriasis. The patient had also been diagnosed with - but never been treated for - alopecia universalis, leaving him hairless everywhere but in the psoriasis plaques on his head, according to a news release. Brett A. King, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at Yale’s School of Medicine, thought it possible to treat both diseases with tofacitinib citrate, which the Food and Drug Administration has approved for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The drug has been used successfully for treating psoriasis in humans and in trials has reversed alopecia areata in mice.

The patient was given 10 mg daily for two months, after which his psoriasis showed some improvement. In addition, the man grew scalp and facial hair for the first time in seven years. After three more months of 15 mg daily treatments, the patient had completely regrown scalp hair as well as eyebrows, eyelashes, armpit and other hair - all of which he lacked before the treatments started.

 “This is a huge step forward in the treatment of patients with this condition,” Dr. King said in the statement. “While it’s one case, we anticipated the successful treatment of this man based on our current understanding of the disease and the drug. We believe the same results will be duplicated in other patients, and we plan to try.”

Tofacitinib appears to spur hair regrowth in alopecia universalis patients by blocking immune-system attacks on hair follicles that are prompted by the disease. Dr. King and his colleagues are proposing a clinical trial to test a tofacitinib-based cream for treating alopecia areata.

The case was published online June 18 in Journal of Investigative Dermatology.