Will Tofacitinib Citrate (Xeljanz) Cure My Son's Alopecia Universalis?

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Mr. H. Korkmaz


My son has alopecia universalis one year. We live in Holland. I read about tofacitinib citrate that have a cure for alopecia. We want to come to London to treat my son, we want to make an appointment.

Answer: Tofacitinib citrate, more commonly known by its brand name of Xeljanz, is a rheumatoid arthritis drug currently in testing for the treatment of alopecia conditions after a recent Yale University study successfully used the drug to treat an alopecia universalis sufferer. The patient, a 25 year old male who was initially referred to the medical facility for the skin condition plaque psoriasis, experienced excellent regrowth results over the course of the 8 month-long study.

Arthritis Drug Used to Treat Hair Loss from Alopecia Universalis in Yale University Study Arthritis Drug Used to Treat Hair Loss from Alopecia Universalis in Yale University Study

However, whilst the signs from the Yale University study were certainly promising, and the drug has previously been used to successfully treat psoriasis in humans and to reverse lesser forms of alopecia in mice, the serious side effects of Xeljanz as a treatment for arthritis are alarming and definitely warrant further investigation.

Tofacitinib is an immunosuppressant that works by damping down the immune system so the progress and symptoms of diseases caused by the body’s own immune system attacking it can be slowed and relieved. The problem is that this means the body is not protected from opportunistic infections, and cancers are more likely to develop in the long term. The drug is currently undergoing clinical trials into its long-term safety.

At the moment Xeljanz is FDA-approved for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis in the USA, with similar usage-approvals granted in Argentina, Columbia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Switzerland. Japan has also approved tofacitinib citrate for this type of treatment in adults, although there it has the brand name Jaquinus.

Tofacitinib Citrate is presently unavailable in the UK as it has not been granted a license by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), due in part to concerns about the incidences of serious side-effects such as cancers, infections and digestive tract problems.

As testing is still in the early stages, the dose which may be effective for alopecia totalis and universalis has not yet been fully established, so the adverse effect profile may improve but it is too early to speculate either way.

Depending on his age, you may want to explore Topical Immunotherapy for your son as a potential alternative, although it is controversial for children to undergo this treatment. It works by creating an allergic reaction on affected areas of skin, shocking the hair follicles into production. Topical Immunotherapy is currently considered the most effective treatment for alopecia universalis available, with a success rate of around 40% although treatment does need to be sustained in order for hair growth to continue. There have also been reports of unpleasant side effects from this form of treatment.

The range of known adverse effects from Topical Immunotherapy includes persistent dermatitis, generalized eczema, blistering, contact leukoderma, urticarial reaction and vitiligo, a condition which causes a patchy discolouration of the skin.

For support and information on dealing with alopecia universalis, we recommend you contact Alopecia WorldAlopecia World is a social network for both adults and children experiencing alopecia. The site has hundreds of users and offers a chance for your son to meet other people with the same condition as him.

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