Potential treatment for patients with severe hair loss

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – A Yale study with promising results for patients coping with a medical condition that leads to hair loss.

About seven million Americans, millions more worldwide, live with alopecia areata.

What started with one case several years ago, led to a clinical trial at Yale School of Medicine.

Researchers gave participants a drug already prescribed for patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and a significant number of them regrew their hair.

It could be the lifeline for patients with severe hair loss.

“For decades when we thought there was nothing there is something and we now have concrete evidence of that,” says Yale principal investigator Dr. Brett King.

Now there’s proof that Xeljanz also works to treat alopecia areata, an auto-immune skin disorder, with recurring hair loss on the scalp and other areas of the body.

He says, “This is truly a whole shift in a disease that creates tremendous despair and depression.”

The study, co-designed by Dr. King, a dermatologist, has significant findings.

For three months, 66 adults took 5 mg of the drug, twice a day.

Researchers say it appears to stop the immune system attack on the hair follicle.

A third of them regrew 50 percent or more of hair.

Another third up to 15 percent of regrowth like this patient.

With a third not responding.

But even that group had some success.

“Some of those patients showed some but weak evidence of hair regrowth and indeed when you look at some of those patients, not all of them but some of those patients in subsequent months– they achieve complete regrowth,” Dr. King points out.

A critical detail.

“The longer you have a bald spot or the longer that you are bald, the less likely you will respond,” says Dr. King.

Results of longer trials will be released soon.

Dr. King is confident of the long term impact of the treatment.

“I suspect that some people will achieve a durable remission and might be able to actually come off the medications at some point and maintain their hair growth but I suspect most people will probably need to continue treatment at some does to maintain regrowth,” he said.

There were no significant side effects. Dr. King says nothing that led to discontinued treatment.

Look for the results of the longer trials in the coming weeks.

And again — it looks to be even more promising.

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