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Oral JAK inhibitor treats adolescent alopecia areata

A patient prior to treatment with ritlecitinib (L) and the patient experiencing complete hair regrowth while taking ritlecitinib (R). Photo courtesy Yale Medicine.

New findings show that the oral Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor ritlecitinib effectively treats alopecia areata in adolescents.

The study was published in The Lancet.

“This new work is a huge advancement for treating alopecia areata because the clinical trial involved adolescents in addition to adults,” said Brett King, MD, PhD, in a press release.

“Because alopecia areata frequently affects children and adolescents, it is groundbreaking to advance a medicine that shows safety and effectiveness in the treatment of younger patients.”

Dr. King, the lead author of the study, is an associate professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn.

The phase 3 trial followed 718 patients, including more than 100 adolescent patients, at 118 hospitals and clinics in 18 countries. All participants had at least 50% scalp hair loss due to alopecia areata.

After 24 weeks of ritlecitinib treatment, many patients experienced complete or near-complete scalp hair regrowth. More patients achieved hair regrowth with continued ritlecitinib use for an additional 24 weeks. The medication was well-tolerated in patients throughout the study.

Dr. King said it was significant that the results were consistent among all age groups, including younger patients.

“Alopecia areata often causes enormous suffering, for adults and kids alike,” he said. “Being a kid is hard enough as it is, so imagine what it’s like to be a kid with big bald spots, maybe missing an eyebrow, maybe without any hair at all. It can be punishing.”

A longer-term study of ritlecitinib to treat alopecia areata is ongoing.

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