Patients with alopecia who are taking a drug meant to control eczema have encountered an unexpected side effect: hair regrowth.
Eczema Drug Counters Alopecia
A new study claims that dupilumab, a drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Authority to treat moderate to severe atopic dermatitis or eczema, has caused a 13-year-old girl who has a longstanding alopecia totalis to regrow hair on her scalp.
According to Maryanne Makredes Senna, senior author of the study, the patient has no hair on her head since she was 2 years old. This is also the first time that dupilumab has caused the regrowth of hair in patients with any degree of alopecia.
Alopecia totalis is a rare skin condition in which a person's immune system attacks the healthy tissue or, in this case, the hair follicles. Patients with alopecia totalis completely lose all the hair on the heads.
In addition to alopecia totalis, the 13-year-old patient who has regrown hair with dupilumab has also been suffering from eczema since she was 7 months old. Prior to being administered dupilumab, the patient has been taking prednisone and methotrexate to control symptoms of eczema. Although the drugs that suppress overactive immune systems alleviated her skin disease, she did not see hair regrowth.
The unnamed patient only started taking dupilumab weekly injections in July 2017. After only six weeks of taking dupilumab, she reported that her eczema had improved significantly. Moreover, she noticed fine hair strands growing on her scalp.
Dupilumab Improving Eczema And Alopecia
Dupilumab, which is marketed as Dupixent, works by targeting the pathway of the immune system that triggers eczema. Senna believes this is why the drug can also improve alopecia.
No official clinical trial involving patients with alopecia has been conducted as of yet. However, the patient is positive that dupilumab was responsible for hair growth. When she had to stop taking the drug due to issues with her health care provider, she noticed her regrown hair had shed.
"Right now, it's hard to know whether dupilumab could induce hair growth in other alopecia patients, but I suspect it may be helpful in patients with extensive active eczema and active alopecia areata," added Senna. "We've submitted a proposal for a clinical trial using dupilumab in this patient population and hope to be able to investigate it further in the near future."
The study was published in the journal JAMA Dermatology.