Vitiligo is an immunodeficiency and it occurs when the immune system mistakes melanocytes as threatening substance. Melanocytes are cells that are produced in the epidermal hair follicles and are responsible for giving the skin and hair color.
The condition is difficult to treat as there aren’t many therapies to choose from. Even the few therapies available present some significant drawbacks.
However, the narrative has changed since June 2022, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the USA approved the first Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor to treat unsegmented vitiligo. Unsegmented vitiligo is the most common type of the condition characterized by pale skin patches appearing on both sides of the body. The initial signs of the disease may show up on hands, fingertips, wrists, around the eyes or mouth, or on the feet
The JAK inhibitor drug, was already present on the pharmaceutical market as ruxolitinib (Opzelura), and was prescribed as a topical cream to manage eczema.
Eczema like vitiligo, is also an autoimmune disease occurring in the skin and this quite explains why its treatment drug has received the green flag from the FDA to treat unsegmented vitiligo.
Facts to know about the JAK inhibitor
JAK inhibitors produce relatively quick results against vitiligo
Experts claim it’s an established fact that people on JAK inhibitor medication start to notice little speckles of normal pigment coming back within the first couple weeks of using the drug.
However, scientists like Dr. Gunasekera, warn that others may not see significant changes for six months or more after using the ruxolitinib drug.
Topical JAK inhibitors can be effective when other treatments are failing
JAK inhibitors are thought to be the most effective drugs for curing early-stage unsegmented vitiligo cases, possibly because they work by interrupting the inflammatory processes.
Dermatologist Nicole S. Gunasekera, MD, director of the vitiligo clinic at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston also claims similar effects of the drug are seen in people who have stayed with vitiligo for a long time.
The side effects of JAK inhibitors are mild
As prescribed by health experts, JAK inhibitors drugs are applied directly to the skin. On rare occasions, consumers may see side effects like redness, itching, and acne-like breakouts on their skins.
The medication may also bring on coldlike symptoms, headaches, fevers, and urinary tract infections – which are all mostly mild reactions.
In additional, the drug normally comes with a black box warning, mostly based on the oral formulas of the drug. These potential side effects are
- Serious infections
- Blood clots
- Heart attack
However , there have been no significant reports of serious side effects from people who have used or are using the cream formulation of the drug.
Topical JAK inhibitors tend to work better on some parts of the body than others.
Ruxolitinib, a type of JAK inhibitors drug, works effectively on relatively small patches of skin, indicating the fact that it can only be used on about 10 percent or less of the surface area of the body.
With this knowledge, a sufferer of vitiligo experiencing damages on more than 10 percent of their skin, can easily pick the areas they are most self-conscious about to treat with the cream.
How does JAK inhibitors compare to other treatments for vitiligo?
You must note that JAK inhibitors are not the only treatment options available for treating vitiligo though they stand out. Therefore you must that JAK inhibitors possess characteristics that distinguish them from other traditional vitiligo medications and therapies.
The topical JAK inhibitors treatment plans, allows consumers to decide if they are solely interested in trying ruxolitinib or combining it with other treatment plans which are as follows
- Topical steroid creams which help calm inflammation, but can only be used for 6 months whilst JAK inhibitors can be used for more than 6 months.
- Topical calcineurin inhibitors, such as tacrolimus ointment and pimecrolimus cream act on the immune system. They also work like JAK inhibitors by effecting remedies on small areas of skin but unlike JAK inhibitors , they normally present adverse effects like burning sensation on first used.
- Phototherapy targets larger areas of skin than topical medications, but it requires going to a doctor’s office, typically twice a week, for weeks or even months, which isn’t so for JAK inhibitors.