Eczema and Vitiligo Patients Wonder: Is Xeljanz a new treatment option for us?

Xeljanz (tofacitinib citrate), made by Pfizer, Inc., belongs to a class of drugs known as kinase inhibitors. The drug works by blocking the substances in your body that cause inflammation. Xeljanz has been show to provide relief to moderate to severe sufferers of the autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis.

XELJANZ_0The results of a small case study has patients asking: is Xeljanz a new treatment option for eczema and vitiligo? Eczema is a common skin condition that causes itching and dry, red patches on the skin. A simple walk down the skin care aisle at the grocery story or pharmacy reveals a variety of lotions and skin creams designed to treat this condition. Vitiligo is the skin condition that causes irregular white patches on the skin, pigment free patches, and is best known for turning Michael Jackson’s skin white.

“In some patients, these can be extremely difficult conditions to treat,” says Dr. Miriam Hanson, board certified dermatologist in Austin, Texas. While the exact causes of eczema and vitiligo are unknown, many researchers have pointed out underlying dysregulated factors in the immune system that are active in these condition.

Recently, physicians at Yale tried Xeljanz in six patients to block the immune response associated with eczema. Xeljanz successfully provided itch relief to the patients treated who had not responded to other eczema treatments. Taking Xeljanz also resulted in better sleep patterns for the patients.

Xeljanz-tofacitinib_tablets“It’s an extremely interesting observation, and one that can fundamentally change the way we think about these diseases and their treatments,” says Dr. Adam Mamelak, board-certified dermatologist at Sanova Dermatology.  Dr. Mamelak does caution that the eczema study was small so it’s hard to say whether Xeljanz would help all eczema sufferers. Larger studies are needed to determine who would be the best candidate for this treatment.

In another study, Xeljanz was used in a patient with progressive vitiligo that had not responded to topical treatments or phototherapy. At 5 months, there was near complete repigmentation of the patient’s skin, with approximately only 5% of the patient’s body remaining effected.

Xeljanz was also tried in a patient suffering from alopecia areata, hair loss also caused by an autoimmune response.

Xeljanz has serious side effects and many contra-indications. For instance, no one taking an immune system suppressant like cyclosporine or other medicines for rheumatoid arthritis will be a candidate for Xeljanz treatment. If you have liver disease or a serious infection, your doctor will probably tell you not to start a Xeljanz regimen. There are also medical conditions that interfere with how Xeljanz works. For instance, if you suffer from HIV, or Diabetes, or have low blood cell count, you would not be a good candidate for this treatment.

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If you suffer from eczema or vitiligo and are looking for better management strategies, please contact us. Always tell your doctor about your specific medicines and health conditions so your physician can recommend the optimal treatment for you.

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