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First of its kind alopecia treatment approved

Words by Smiley Team

Alopecia is an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks its own hair follicles, causing hair to fall out, often in clumps. This can lead to either complete hair loss or just balding patches – and until now, there hasn’t been a treatment for the disorder approved by the FDA. 

That was until Olumiant was approved on June 13. The drug works to rewire some of the misguided signals in the body to keep them from attacking hair follicles. 

“Access to safe and effective treatment options is crucial for the significant number of Americans affected by severe alopecia,” Dr. Kendall Marcus, director of the Division of Dermatology and Dentistry in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said. “Today's approval will help fulfill a significant unmet need for patients with severe alopecia areata.”

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Olumiant was already on the market as a rheumatoid arthritis treatment, but its use for alopecia has been off-label until now.

To test the drug, which is manufactured by Eli Lilly and Company, researchers recruited 855 participants who had lost at least half of their scalp hair. 

Across two clinical trials, both double-blind some of the participants received two milligrams of Olumiant, some received four milligrams, and some received a placebo every day.

After 36 weeks, the researchers found that about a third of patients who received the higher dose had regrown enough hair to cover at least 80% of their scalp. Only 17% to 22% on the lower dose had that result, and only 3% to 5% of those on the placebo did. Participants did experience some side effects, like weight gain, respiratory tract infections, headaches, acne, high cholesterol, fatigue, and nausea.

“One of my concerns is that people will see this as the solution for everybody, and there's a lot people that won't qualify for it, or aren't willing to handle the side effects, like suppressing your immune system during a pandemic,” Margaret M. Quinlan, a professor in North Carolina who has alopecia, told Insider.

Even though it’s not perfect it does offer a possible solution for a disorder that has very few available treatments. 

Inspired to Act?

DONATE: Check out the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. The group aims to support and provide community to people that struggle with the disorder.

SUPPORT: Inform yourself about alopecia and how it affects those afflicted. It might be helpful in the future to brighten someone’s day. Here’s a good resource to learn more.


This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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