A drug approved by health regulators to treat eczema has a side effect that may be beneficial for people with serious hair loss problems.
In a case report published in the JAMA Dermatology, researchers reported the case of a 13-year-old patient with alopecia totalis, a condition characterized by total loss of hair on the scalp. The young patient had not grown hair on her scalp since she was 2-years-old.
The patient was also suffering from eczema. She had the skin condition since she was 7-months-old. To address the skin problem, doctors prescribed her with dupilumab. The FDA-approved drug is normally known by the brand name Dupixent.
Shortly after treatment, the patient experienced significant hair regrowth. Six weeks after treatment, she noticed fine light hairs appearing on her head. After seven months, she already had significant growth of pigmented hair.
Doctors said that the regrowth of the girl’s hair appears linked to the eczema drug. When the unnamed patient stopped taking dupilumab due to a change in her insurance coverage, the newly regrown hair also started to fall out. Hair regrowth, however, resumed when she started the treatment again.
“We were quite surprised since this patient hadn’t grown scalp hair since the age of 2, and other treatments that can help with hair loss did not in her case,” senior author Maryanne Makredes Senna said in a statement from the Massachusetts General Hospital. “As far as we know, this is the first report of hair regrowth with dupilumab in a patient with any degree of alopecia areata.”
It is not clear how the drug causes the effect but Senna, who is from the MGH Department of Dermatology, explained that dupilumab targets a pathway in the immune system known to be overactive in eczema. Findings of recent studies suggest that the same pathway may induce autoimmune-caused hair loss.
Although the dupilumab drug holds promise in treating hair loss, it should not be taken without medical approval. According to Newsweek, use of the drug comes with side effects which include conjunctivitis, oral herpes, and upper respiratory tract infection.
Around 6.5 million people in the United States live with some form of alopecia. The causes vary but the most common cause is a medical condition known as hereditary hair loss.
The researchers have already expressed their interest to conduct further investigation on the potential of the drug for treating other sufferers of alopecia.