The race to bring new treatments to the market for Alopecia Areata, which causes sudden, patchy hair loss, stepped up a gear this month with an announcement from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.
Possibly swayed by the findings of smaller research companies who have seen potential in a suite of drugs known as JAK inhibitors – including one made by Pfizer – the multinational is now in the throes of a Phase 2a randomized, double-blind multicentre study, for which 132 participants are being lined up. All will have Alopecia Areata, an autoimmune disorder, and they will be treated with the JAK3 inhibitor PF- 06651600 or TYK2/JAK1 inhibitor PF-06700841.
Surprise treatment for Alopecia
It is unclear at this stage how closely either of these is related to Pfizer’s existing JAK inhibitor drug, Xeljanz (tofacitinib citrate), a prescription medicine for adults with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis. Its potential as a treatment for severe forms of Alopecia Areata came as something of a surprise when scientists at Yale University School of Medicine used it in 2014 to treat a condition named plaque psoriasis (the drug has yet to gain FDA clearance for treatment on that condition).
Their patient also presented with an extreme form of Alopecia Areata named Alopecia Universalis, which causes total hair loss on the entre head and body. What stunned doctors was that the patient regrew all of the hair on his head while taking Xeljanz for his plaque psoriasis.
Pfizer’s trial suggests that they, too, see potential in JAK inhibitors as a potential future treatment for Alopecia Areata and its related conditions. This seems to be something of a U-turn. Just last year, the Pharmaceutical Journal wrote that: “Pfizer has expressed little interest in Alopecia Areata as an indication, instead focusing on psoriasis for which there is a better known and thus more reliable market.”
While the Pfizer trial is larger than some of the others that have recently taken place, it is still not especially wide-reaching in its scope, and results are not expected for almost 18 months – once again suggesting that the chances of someone being able to walk into a chemist to buy a JAK inhibitor-based pill for Alopecia Areata-related hair loss will not happen any time soon.
This can only become a reality once extensive trial data has been presented to relevant authorities – the FDA in the US, and the MHRA in the UK – who will then weigh up the pros and cons of approving or licensing it. The negatives currently associated with JAK inhibitors are that some have quite serious side-effects.
Alopecia Areata treatment options
People with Alopecia Areata today are not without options, however. First of all, it should be noted that bald patches associated with the condition often grow back of their own accord within a few months.
Additionally, it is already possible to provide Alopecia Areata treatment for the mild version, which causes patchy hair loss to the scalp only. At Belgravia these courses are specifically tailored by hair loss specialists to cater directly to each client’s needs. As such, regrowth success stories are far from uncommon.
Currently, anyone aged 16 or over with Alopecia Areata can be treated at Belgravia with courses featuring high strength minoxidil, as long as they are deemed medically suitable. It may be the case, however, that only over-18s may be able to use JAK inhibitor-based drugs if and when they are available, chiefly because of concerns about side-effects. Indeed, the Pfizer trial has been recruiting only those who are aged 18 and over.
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.