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Home > Articles > Arthritis Drug Cures One Man’s Hair Loss

Arthritis Drug Cures One Man’s Hair Loss

by Alexandra Kilpatrick

When it comes to his hair, Kyle Rhodes can choose from a myriad of styles, from a long full Viking beard to a 1980s style mullet to a nice clean shaven look.

Rhodes didn’t always have options. As a two year old, he was diagnosed with alopecia areata and his hair began falling out in patches. By the age of 18, he had lost all the hair on his head and body.

His doctor at Yale University decided to try the drug Xeljanz, used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. His reasoning? Rhodes’ hair loss was caused by an autoimmune disease. Why not counter the hair loss with a treatment used for another autoimmune disease?

Luckily, the drug worked wonders. Eight months later, Rhodes had a full head of hair and his eyebrows, eyelashes and the rest of his body hair grew back as well.

“I was ecstatic,” Dr. Brett King, Rhodes’ dermatologist, told WGN TV. “I was truly overjoyed for him.”

The success gives King hope for the 6.5 million other alopecia areata sufferers who could benefit from the drug.

However, Dr. George Cotsarelis is wary of the idea. Some patients have experienced bad side effects from Xeljanz, dying from infections like tuberculoiss or facing an increased risk of cancer, according to the drugmaker’s website.

“This drug really can have some nasty side effects,” Cotsarelis, chairman of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, explained to WGN TV. “You really have to decide how much risk you want to [take].”

King commented that he wants to create a cream form of Xeljanz for patients to use at the source of the hair loss, rather than taking a pill and exposing the entire body to the drug and its side effects.

Neither King nor Cotsarelis believe that the drug would work to counteract male pattern baldness, since it isn’t related to the immune system. However, King thinks that the drug’s effect on male pattern baldness should be researched just in case.

“To not imagine it would be crazy,” King explained to WGN TV. “The possibility should be imagines and should be investigated.”

It’s not currently clear whether a hair loss sufferer would need to continue to take the drug for life. Rhodes takes the drug not to maintain his full head of hair but to help his psoriasis, which gives him painful dry, bleeding skin.

However, Xeljanz is fairly new, expensive drug. King says it can cost 25,000 dollars per year without insurance.

Rhodes comments that his insurance covers most of the cost. Pfizer, the company that makes the drug, agreed to give Rhodes a discount card to cover his 600 dollar per month copayment.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about hair loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!

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