Ruxolitinib for Hair Loss: Worth It?

Ruxolitinib for Hair Loss: Worth It?

It’s a miracle! Or so they say, but let’s not get too excited right yet.

The new drug Ruxolitinib (full name: (3R)-3-cyclopentyl-3-(4-{7H-pyrrolo[2,3-d]pyrimidin-4-yl}pyrazol-1-yl)propanenitrile) was recently tested to be a treatment for alopecia areata, not androgenic alopecia; the most common pattern hair loss that half of men and a quarter of women face by 50.

But it does bring about hope for those who are suffering from alopecia areata (also known as patchy hair loss).

The Study

So far there have been two studies done on Ruxolitinib, both by Columbia University.

The first study had three-quarters of the patients see hair regrowth of 50 percent or more by the end of the treatment period. Seventy-seven percent of those saw hair regrowth of more than 95 percent.

While this might seem like incredible news and reason for celebration, the clinical trial only had a total of twelve patients. So even though three quarters sounded like a great number, it is technically only nine people.

The phase 2 study was a 24-week period that studied a handful of patients who had moderate to severe alopecia areata.

  • 28 patients took 4 mg of Ruxolitinib twice a day
  • 38 patients took 8 mg of Ruxolitinib twice a day
  • 35 patients took the placebo

Almost half of the patients who took the 8 mg dose had hair regrowth (including eyebrows and eyelashes) by at least 50%. The 4 mg dose also provided the same amount of hair regrowth in 21% of the patients.

During the study, the most common side effect that the patients saw was a headache, however, the investigators are continuing to keep an eye on blood chemistry and infections.

Risks Associated with Ruxolitinib

While the findings above seem like a reason to be excited, it is important to consider the risk factors that are associated with taking this prescription when it becomes available. The first risk factor is that Ruxolitinib is in a class of medicine known as JAK inhibitors which suppress the immune system. This makes the immune system unable to attack your hair follicles and stop growth. However, this effect on the immune system increases your risk of infection. It can also increase your risk of certain types of cancers.

There are also other downsides to the drug, including that those who stopped using it began to have their hair fall out once more.

You will also likely have a hard time getting your insurance to cover the treatment when it becomes available. Most insurance companies classify hair loss as a cosmetic concern, which will make the treatment more difficult to get.

Conclusion

While this drug is not currently available on the market, there are downsides to it that you should consider before blindly taking it. As an immunosuppressant, this treatment isn’t a great option for someone to take for years or decades on end. It could have detrimental consequences to your body.

Until there is a way to have a topical form that treats only the area it is applied, we suggest staying away from Ruxolitinib for now. The good news is, doctors have begun looking into topical forms, so hopefully one day that will be a viable option!

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