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Arthritis Drug Cure for Baldness? More Cases Reported

Nov 16, 2016 05:00 AM EST
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Studies suggest that a drug used for rheumatoid arthritis could help in hair regrowth. The drug, called tofacitinib citrate, could stop the immune system from attacking hair follicles.
(Photo : Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

More studies have shown that a certain arthritis drug could help cure for hair loss and baldness.

The drug, which is called tofacitinib citrate and sold under the brand name Xeljanz, is said to be capable of curing alopecia areata - an autoimmune disease that causes patchiness or complete hair loss on the head, body, eyebrows and eyelashes - by stopping the immune system's attack on hair follicles, HealthDay reports.

According to a study released in September, over 50 percent of 66 patients treated with Xeljanz saw hair growth in three months. Half of the subjects saw hair regrowth and one-third had grown back 50 percent of their hair.

Apart from preventing hair loss, the researchers have also found genes that could predict a patient's response to treatment.

"It may be that if we can treat people for long enough the condition might go into remission, but we don't know the answer that," Dr. Brett King, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut and lead researcher for the study, said in a statement.

A more recent study also had similar findings. The patients - one man and one woman - had alopecia universalis, a condition where people lose all the hairs on their body. The patients' doctors were unable to cure their condition even after trying different drugs.

But according to a report by Live Science, the patients took Xeljanz every day for two months and saw hair regrowth on the scalp, eyebrows and underarms. The researchers from the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo, Brazil who did the study followed the patients for nine months and found that they did not experience any serious side effects.

"Successful treatment can improve patients' lives dramatically, as it did for our patients," the researchers wrote in the paper, which was published in the Nov. 15 issue of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

However, the researchers are concerned about the harmful side effects long-term tofacitinib treatment could cause. The side effects the drug could cause include serious infections and tears in the stomach and intestines.

According to medical experts, while it is not clear yet why patients suffering from alopecia universalis lose the ability to grow hair, studies about how tofacitinib could reverse hair loss could help researchers understand the condition and develop new treatments with fewer side effects.

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