A drug that treats rheumatoid arthritis appears to offer a new way to treat people with moderate to severe eczema, a small study suggests. The drug also seems to reverse two other disfiguring skin conditions: vitiligo and alopecia areata.
“I’m hopeful we are entering a whole new era in treatment.”
Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a chronic condition that causes severe itching and leaves the skin red and thickened. It can adversely affect sleep and quality of life—and standard treatments, such as steroid creams and oral medicines, commonly fail to relieve symptoms.
“Eczema affects millions of children and adults in the United States,”says Brett King, assistant professor of dermatology at Yale University. “I’m hopeful we are entering a whole new era in treatment.”
Based on current scientific models of eczema biology, researchers hypothesized that a drug approved for rheumatoid arthritis, tofacitinib citrate, would interrupt the immune response that causes eczema.
Treatment with the drug led to dramatic improvement in six patients with moderate to severe eczema who had previously tried conventional therapies without success. During treatment all six patients reported significant reduction in itch as well as improved sleep. The redness and thickening of the skin diminished, also.
“These individuals were not only very happy with the results, they also expressed a tremendous sense of relief at being comfortable in their skin for the first time in many years,” says King.
Alopecia and vitiligo
Researchers had previously shown that the drug regrows hair in patients with an autoimmune-related form of hair loss called alopecia areata.
They have also published findings reporting the successful treatment of a patient with vitiligo, which can leave widespread irregular white patches all over the body.
While further research is needed to confirm the treatment’s long-term efficacy and safety for eczema patients, the findings, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, suggest that a change in the standard of care for eczema—a condition for which there is no targeted therapy—may be on the horizon.
Source: Yale University