With an estimated 80 million Americans suffering from hair loss, doctors are regularly testing new treatment options and the latest prospect is JAK inhibitors. This type of drug was originally created to treat rheumatoid arthritis but is showing promise for hair loss as well.
Officially called Janus kinase inhibitors, JAK inhibitors belong to the class of medications called DMARDs or disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two JAK inhibitors, baricitinib (brand name Olumiant), and tofacitinib (brand name Xeljanz), for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
What Are JAK Inhibitors and How Do They Work?
People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) overproduce cytokines, which are a protein involved in the development of inflammation. When cytokines attach to immune cell receptors, cells are signaled to create more cytokines, which can create a vicious cycle.
JAK inhibitors block the signals to produce more cytokines. That calms the immune system and provides symptom relief. They tend to be prescribed for RA patients whose symptoms are not responding well to medications like adalimumab or methotrexate (brand name Trexall). Unlike biologics, such as adalimumab, JAK inhibitors do not require an injection; they can be taken as a pill.
How Do JAK Inhibitors Affect Hair Loss?
According to research from Dr. Angela Christiano and her colleagues, JAK inhibiting drugs are effective for treating hair loss caused by inflammation, such as alopecia areata. In a follow-up study, Dr. Christiano found that JAK inhibitors are even more effective when used topically instead of orally, as they were in the original study.
What Are the Drawbacks to JAK Inhibitors?
JAK inhibitors can interfere with some immune system activity, making you more susceptible to infections. Clinical trials found that those taking tofacitinib had a larger risk of contracting tuberculosis (TB) if exposed to the disease as well as being more likely to get common viral diseases like herpes zoster (shingles). Doctors also wonder about how JAK inhibitors affect the immune response to tumors.
On the plus side, JAK inhibitors have a short half-life. That means they clear your system quickly once you stop taking them, allowing your body to fight infection normally.
Anemia can also be a side effect of JAK inhibitors due to how they affect a protein used in the creation of red blood cells. They can also lower white blood cell counts and increase cholesterol. Taking a statin can counteract the latter. An increased risk of blood clots is also possible. JAK inhibitors are just one option for treating hair loss.
During our free consultations at RHRLI, we’ll evaluate the reason for your hair loss and create a personalized treatment plan that could include non-surgical solutions, surgical treatments or a mix.
For Customized Hair Loss Treatment, Call RHRLI
RHRLI is the premier center for robotic hair restoration. We’re the first ARTAS® hair restoration practitioner on Long Island and have performed more than 400 hair restoration procedures. We’ll evaluate your hair loss and determine what treatment option is right for you. Contact RHRLI online or give us a call at (516) 586-0279.