Recent news surrounding an arthritis drug called Xeljanz (or 'tofacitinib citrate') has gained a lot of attention in the media after a man with alopecia universalis, an untreatable medical condition causing total baldness, regrew all of his hair whilst using the drug. The Daily Mail reported this as a 'Breakthrough' and tabloids around the world described the drug as a 'miracle cure' for baldness.
Following the story's publication the Belgravia research team carried out some further investigations into the drug to see if there was anything else alopecia sufferers should know about tofacitinib citrate. We uncovered some very interesting yet disturbing facts.
More details can be found in our comprehensive Xeljanz (tofacitinib) Story but to sum up, there seems to be a high chance of serious side effects from tofacitinib as it lowers your immune system and makes users susceptible to infections. A clinical study for the medication started in February 2007. Since this study began four participants have died. Pfizer (the manufacturers of the drug) said that only one of those deaths was related to tofacitinib. Charity 'Arthritis Research UK' reported that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) had been advised not to approve tofacitinib for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis by its committee. According to the charity the committee 'had "major concerns" about the medication's safety with regard to serious infections, certain cancers, gastrointestinal perforations, liver damage and blood fat levels'.
Although the most common side effects of Xeljanz in its usual role as rheumatoid arthritis medication, were found to be upper respiratory tract infections, headaches, hypertension, diarrhoea and inflammation of the nasal passage (nasopharyngitis), the current Safety & Side Effects warnings on the product's website and packaging clearly state that 'Xeljanz may cause serious side effects'. These include:
Serious infections: 'Some people have serious infections while taking Xeljanz , including tuberculosis (TB), and infections caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses that can spread throughout the body. Some people have died from these infections.'
Cancer and Immune System Problems: 'Xeljanz may increase your risk of certain cancers by changing the way your immune system works.'
Tears (perforation) in the Stomach or Intestines: 'Some people taking Xeljanz get tears in their stomach or intestine. This happens most often in people who also take non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, or methotrexate.'
So we urge alopecia sufferers not to get there hopes up until further details are released about this drug for the treatment of alopecia and whether it would be safe to use. Judging by the information gained above, it seems the potential problems associated with the drug might far outweigh its benefits.
Funmi Lampejo, Pharmacy Manager at The Belgravia Centre's City of London clinic did offer some hope to alopecia sufferers saying, "As the dose which may be effective for alopecia totalis and universalis has not yet been fully established, it may turn out that the adverse effect profile may improve".