At the age of 13 the girl lost her hair, eyelashes and eyebrows, but thanks to the “JAK-inhibitor” medicines, today at the age of 17 she finally said goodbye to her wig
Losing her hair at age 13: it happened to Martina, whose story is told by the Rare Diseases Observatory (O.Ma.R.). The girl, now 17, finally said goodbye to her wig thanks to a promising class of drugs.
Martina suffers from airborne alopecia, a malt autoimmune affecting 2% of the population, 147 million people in the world. It is a disease that does not heal and, the more extensive the disease, the more difficult it is to respond to existing therapies. She hit the headlines recently, when the actor Will Smith
reacted badly at the Oscars awards ceremony to a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett, who has been suffering from alopecia since 2018.
The drugs used
There are many treatments available, but the one that gave Martina back her smile is tofacitinib, an orally administered molecule that is part of a class of drugs called Janus kinase inhibitors, or JAK inhibitors. Some of these have already been approved for the treatment of tumori rari such as myelofibrosis and for chronic autoimmune diseases, such as l‘rheumatoid arthritisor dermatological, such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis, but can be used outside the official therapeutic indication (that is off label, ed) also for alopecia areata.
Recent approval in the USA
On Monday also in the US the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved baricitinib, a drug that re-grows hair by blocking the immune system from attacking the hair follicles, based on the JAK-inhibitor principle. The approval was important for the insurance coverage of these drugs which are very expensive and must be administered by the health system: in the US it is estimated that they have a list price of almost 2,500 dollars a month. Notably baricitinib showed in two studies published on the New England Journal of Medicine that almost 40 percent of those who hired it regrow their hair. After a year, the success rate reached nearly half of patients without serious side effects (referred to as a slightly increased risk of acne, urinary tract infections and other, treatable).
A disease to be recognized
For years in Italy ASAA-Associazione Sostegno Alopecia Areata has asked the Ministry of Health for the inclusion of alopecia in the LEA (the essential levels of assistance), as it is a rare and relapsing disease. The exemptions would also serve to avoid paying for aids such as wigs.
Female alopecia in Italy it affects about four million women, especially after menopause, when the hormonal structure changes and the hair becomes thinner and falls out more and more. For the diagnosis in women, once the main marker used was hyper-androgenism (the excess of male hormones), in fact it has been found that female alopecia can be present even with normal levels of male hormones. In any case, the reference specialist is the dermatologist. In alopecia areata there is one strong genetic predisposition and even children can suffer from it.
Martina is now 17 years old and it’s as if her illness has disappeared: just look at her shoulder-length brown hair, again curiously curly, while before it was straight. The girl’s alopecia was particularly extensive, classified as ‘universal’, with the loss of eyelashes, eyebrows and all body hair. “It was a trauma”, the mother tells O.Ma.R: “This disease has a great psychological and relational impact: children fear teasing and therefore isolate themselves, they no longer want to go to school or go out with their children. friends. My daughter started wearing a wig, but even then there were things she couldn’t do, like going to the pool or having a sleepover with her friends. At that time she was always tired, she also fell asleep in the car, she never got up from the sofa “.
However, JAK inhibitor drugs they are not effective for everyone: it is always necessary to rely on specialists. However, scientific research on pathology today is very active: the main objective is to be able to identify a therapeutic approach that is truly effective in all patients.
It is not baldness
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 as a result of androgen hormones. Androgenetic alopecia affects about 70% of men and 40% of women, especially after menopause: in men it manifests itself with the loss of hair on the top of the head (which often remains completely bald), in women there is generalized thinning. It is irreversible baldness.
June 14, 2022 (change June 14, 2022 | 16:07)
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