The international press presents the case of Martina, whose story is told by the Observatory of Rare Diseases (O.Ma.R.). The 17-year-old girl has finally said goodbye to her wig thanks to some promising drugs.
Martina suffers from airborne alopecia, an autoimmune disease that affects 2% of the population, 147 million people worldwide. It is a disease that cannot be cured, and the more widespread the disease, the more difficult it is to respond to existing therapies. She recently came to public attention when actor Will Smith reacted violently to an Oscar ceremony, following a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett, who has been suffering from alopecia since 2018.
There are many treatments available, but the one that made Martina smile again is tofacitinib, an orally administered molecule that belongs to a class of medicines called ‘JAK inhibitors’. Some of these have already been approved for the treatment of rare cancers such as myelofibrosis and chronic autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, or dermatological diseases such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis, but can be used outside the official therapeutic indication for alopecia areata.
Recent US approval
Recently, in the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it baricitinib, a drug that regrows the hair by blocking the immune system from attacking the hair follicles, based on the “JAK inhibitor” principle. Approval was important for the purchase of these drugs, which are very expensive and must be administered by the health system. In the United States, it is estimated that they have a list price of almost $ 2,500 a month. Regarding baricitinib, two studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that in about 40 percent of those who took it, their hair grew. After a year, the success rate reached almost half of the patients without serious side effects (referred to as slightly increased risk of acne, urinary tract infections and others, treatable).
It’s not balding
Alopecia areata should not be confused with baldness: the first is an autoimmune disease, the second is due to the progressive thinning of the hair due to the effect of androgens. Androgenetic alopecia affects about 70% of men and 40% of women, especially after menopause: in men it occurs with hair loss at the top of the head (which often remains completely bald), in women there is a general thinning. It is an irreversible baldness. Experts point out that there is a strong genetic predisposition in alopecia areata and even children can suffer from it.
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