The drug can be taken orally which can prove revolutionary as most of the treatments related to the disorder are painful and intrusive.
Trigger Warning: The following story mentions suicide and can be disturbing to readers.
Though alopecia affects people of various races and ethnicities all around the world, an effective therapy has been hard to come by. According to Medical News Today, "Alopecia areata is a common autoimmune disorder that often results in unpredictable hair loss." According to a research titled Epidemiology and burden of alopecia areata: A systematic review, this autoimmune disorder affects approximately 2% of the population in the world. Despite the condition being incurable, medical science has been continuously researching different treatment options for the disorder. Olumiant, the first systemic treatment for alopecia areata, was recently authorized by the FDA. Eli Lilly and Company received FDA clearance for Olumiant.
The drug, which is taken orally without the involvement of needles, works by interfering with the body's jumbled messages instructing it to attack hair follicles. After 36 weeks, between 32% and 35% of patients who got the higher of two tested dosages had enough hair to cover 80% of their scalp, according to the clinical trial. Despite adverse effects such as respiratory infections, acne, high cholesterol, headaches, tiredness, urinary tract infections, and more, this shows the potential of being a promising treatment tract for the disorder.
The world became quickly aware of alopecia after Will Smith infamously defended his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, when Chris Rock made a joke about her baldness at the 2022 Oscars. Pinkett Smith suffers from alopecia and has chosen to shave her head rather than seek treatment. On a recent edition of Red Table Talk, she discussed how terrifying the treatments are, reports Allure. A dermatologist describes the targeted therapy, which involves needle pricks straight into the scalp with a needle holding medicine, in the episode. The procedure is time-consuming and uncomfortable, and it needs many visits for these scalp injections in order to prevent future hair loss. It's no surprise that many people choose to accept baldness over treatment for alopecia.
The FDA has approved the first treatment for alopecia areata, a condition that can cause hair loss over the entire body, most noticeably patchy baldness on the head, sometimes including the loss of eyelashes and eyebrows. https://t.co/XIiTJglS81 pic.twitter.com/lI9EUKwOmv— WebMD (@WebMD) June 19, 2022
In the FDA's announcement, Dr. Kendall Marcus, director of the Division of Dermatology and Dentistry in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said, "Access to safe and effective treatment options is crucial for the significant number of Americans affected by severe alopecia. Today’s approval will help fulfill a significant unmet need for patients with severe alopecia areata."
Alopecia areata has so far lacked a viable noninvasive therapy, and while the disorder isn't life-threatening, the emotional repercussions can be devastating. Pinkett Smith talked to the mother of a 12-year-old child with alopecia. The child could not handle the emotional distress and shame attached to the disorder and died by suicide, reports PEOPLE.
Jada Pinkett Smith sat down with people impacted by alopecia in a recent episode of "Red Table Talk." Among them was Niki Ball, the mother of a 12-year-old girl who died by suicide in March after being severely bullied over her hair loss.https://t.co/sN8tEtqlfU— NBCBLK (@NBCBLK) June 1, 2022
The mother, Niki Ball, said that Rio, "still rocked it even when it was falling out, and she just had these big bald patches. Tried the creams. They made her break out. Tried the injections, she took five of them in one day. But neither of them really did anything." She said Rio "glowed" after shaving her head and they got her a wig for school.
However, things did not go as planned—the child had a hard time at school with constant bullying. On March 14, 2020, Rio succumbed to all the pressure the disorder put on her and died by suicide. Pinkett Smith was moved to tears after listening to Rio's story and said that this is the reason why people, "need an understanding around the devastation of this condition."
If you are having thoughts about taking your own life, or know of anyone who is, please contact The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line( text HELLO to 741741)
Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images/Aleksandr ZubkovDisclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.