Good news for people suffering from alopecia, the hair loss condition brought into the public eye by actress Jada Pinkett Smith. The FDA announced its approval of the first drug aimed at treating the condition.
This month, the agency gave a great light to a daily pill named Olumiant which blocks an enzyme that leads to inflammation caused by severe alopecia areata.
Alopecia is an auto-immune disease. As part of an inflammatory cascade, the body is triggered to attack its own hair follicles, causing hair to fall out in clumps leading to patchy bald spots.
Two Phase 3 clinical drug trials performed by drug-maker Eli Lilly found people who were given the oral treatment kept more of their hair. The drug has already been approved for use in rheumatoid arthritis, which is also an auto-immune disorder.
Experts are calling this a medical breakthrough, because Olumiant is the first and only drug FDA approved to treat alopecia and restore hair growth.
The New England Journal of Medicine recounted the study detailing that it involved 1,200 patients with severe alopecia. Nearly 40% of those who took the drug had complete or near complete hair regrowth after 36 weeks. After a year, the number rose to approximately 50%.
Alopecia comes in several forms, relating to scope and location of hair loss. It is common to the scalp, but some people experience total hair loss. Including eyelashes, eyebrows, nose and body hair. This makes the condition in extreme cases, devastating to sufferers, even leading to depression and suicide.
Jada Pinkett Smith has been vocal in her struggle with alopecia. The actress and wife of Will Smith, was swept into controversy at the 2022 Academy Awards when her husband charged the stage and slapped host Chris Rock following a joke about Pinkett Smith’s hair. Like many who suffer from alopecia, Pinkett Smith chose to shave her head.