getty A person with alopecia
A new drug to help alopecia sufferers regrow their hair has been highly successful in clinical trials, with 30 to 40% of patients seeing nearly full regrowth, the company said.
The drug, from Concert Pharmaceuticals in Lexington, Mass., is intended to help people with alopecia areata. The skin disease, which affects more than 6 million Americans, is the second most common cause of hair loss and can leave people with patchy bald spots or the complete loss of all hair. For some, the condition only lasts for a few months before growing back, but for others it is permanent.
Concert tested their twice-daily pill in a clinical trial of 700 people with moderate to severe alopecia areata who had lost at least half of their hair. Among the final group of testers, more than half were bald and as a whole, they had no more than 16% of their hair remaining.
After 24 weeks of testing, 29.6% of the people who had a medium dose of the drug and 41.5% of those with a high dose had regained at least 80% of their hair.
Concert's chief executive Roger Tung told the Boston Globe that the results were "some of the best data" seen yet for a potential alopecia treatment.
Currently, there is no treatment for alopecia areata, but Concert is one of several companies that is close.
"Like many other autoimmune diseases, it is one that has not received a ton of attention until relatively recently," Tung said, adding that he's met many people with the condition over the last few months and found that it "can really screw up people's lives."
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Eli Lilly and Company, another pharmaceutical company, is also running clinical trials on a potential alopecia areata treatment. They've found that baricitinib, a pill currently approved for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, which acts similarly to alopecia areata, was also effective in regrowing hair, though it took 36 weeks to get to 80% hair regrowth compared to 24 for Concert's drug.
Alopecia is a common condition that can be psychologically tough on sufferers. Jada Pinkett Smith, in particular, has been vocal about how she's struggled with her hair loss over the last few years, saying in 2018 that it "was terrifying" when it first started.
"I was in the shower one day and had just handfuls of hair in my hands and I was just like, 'Oh my God, am I going bald?'" she said. "It was one of those times in my life where I was literally shaking in fear. That's why I cut my hair, and why I continue to cut it."