The autoimmune disorder Alopecia Areata which typically leads to patchy hair loss can be problematic to treat, which explains why so many different medical teams around the world are currently testing potential new treatments in the hope of finding a one-size-fits all cure.
Among the more promising leads is the well-known drug adalimumab, sold under the brand name of Humira, the use of which recently resulted in what sounds like rather miraculous regrowth of hair in an American patient with Alopecia Universalis – a rarer and more severe form of Alopecia.
Race for biosimilar drug
Humira – best known as a medication for Chrohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and plaque psoriasis – is expensive, and can cost patients (or their insurers) many thousands per year. The race to find a “biosimilar” drug purporting to do much the same thing appears to have been won by American company Amgen Inc, which last month filed with US regulators to sell a drug named ABP 501.
According to Reuters, Amgen said its drug has demonstrated clinical equivalence and comparable safety to Humira in late stage clinical trials for rheumatoid arthritis and the skin condition plaque psoriasis. Incidentially, these are both autoimmune conditions – as is Alopecia Areata and its various strains.
They are hoping to undercut the biopharmaceutical giant AbbVie, maker of Humira, whose global sales of Humira are said to be almost $13bn a year. Reuters reports, however, that Amgen’s biosimilar alternative is unlikely to represent a huge saving on the price of Humira because the product is complicated to produce.
The excitement around the hair regrowth of the patient with Alopecia Universalis was tempered somewhat when one of the doctors involved – Dr Marie C. Leger, MD, PhD from New York’s Ronald O. Pereleman Department of Dermatology – said that: “Of course patients and physicians need to understand both the risks of immunosuppressant therapy as well as the possibility that adalimumab may worsen the alopecia.”
Indeed, the drug does carry strong health warnings in relation to potentially severe side effects. It is believed this medication may now be being tested topically as well as orally in on-going clinical trials.
Should it prove to be both safe and effective the potential for a cheaper alternative may help to make the cost more manageable for those with private healthcare, as well as for the NHS. However, if Humira is proven suitable as an Alopecia Areata treatment, ABP 501 will still need to undergo its own clinical trials and achieve suitably successful results before becoming available to the public for this purpose given this is not its primary function.
Other treatments for Alopecia
In the meantime, people with Alopecia Areata have often been seen to respond well to using an existing hair loss treatment. High strengh minoxidil is applied directly to the affected areas of the scalp and has produced significant regrowth for many Belgravia clients with Alopecia Areata.
Unfortunately at present this is unsuccessful for the more severe conditions, Alopecia Totalis and Alopecia Universalis. Hearteningly, treatment for these conditions is the subject of many current clinical trials which are producing encouraging results, particularly in the JAK inhibitor sphere, so a breakthrough may not be too far away.
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.