Researchers experienced success restoring skin color in a patient with vitiligo—a devastating condition that causes skin to lose its pigmentation or color—with a medication used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, according to Yale School of Medicine dermatologists. The finding was published June 24 in JAMA Dermatology.
Current treatments for vitiligo include steroid creams and light therapy, although they are not always effective in reversing symptoms.
After Brett King, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology, published findings using Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors to treat alopecia hair loss, he and Brittany Craiglow, M.D., co-author of vitiligo study, thought the same success may be possible for vitiligo.
King and Craiglow administered tofacitinib to a 53-year-old patient with prominent white spots covering her face, hands and body. For more than a year prior to taking tofacitinib, the numbers of these white spots increased.
Within two months of treatment, the patient experienced partial repigmentation occurring on the her face, arms and hands.
After five months, the white spots on her face and hands were nearly gone, with only a few spots remaining on other parts of her body. Tofacitinib caused no adverse side effects during the course of treatment.
"While it's one case, we anticipated the successful treatment of this patient based on our current understanding of the disease and how the drug works," said King.
Further research needs to be completed to confirm the safety and efficacy of tofacitinib for vitiligo, added King.
"It's a first, and it could revolutionize treatment of an awful disease," said King. "This may be a huge step forward in the treatment of patients with this condition." King hopes to conduct a clinical trial using tofacitinib, or a similar medicine, ruxolitinib, for the treatment of vitiligo.