It is exciting that JAK inhibitor medicines are providing new treatment options for patients with alopecia areata. Ritlecitinib (Litfulo) is a licensed JAK inhibitor medication that has been recommended by NICE for routine commissioning on the NHS for the treatment of severe alopecia areata in people aged 12 and over and has been accepted by the SMC for use on the NHS in Scotland. 

Baricitinib (Olumiant) is a licensed JAK inhibitor for severe alopecia areata in people aged 18 and over, it is not approved by NICE or the SMC for as a treatment option within the NHS. 

These treatments will be life-changing for some, but not all.

Whilst the clinical trial data for JAK inhibitor medicines, including baricitinib and ritlecitinib, for treating severe alopecia areata is encouraging, and shows many patients respond positively to the treatment, it is clear from the data that they do not work for everyone. These treatments will be life-changing for some, but not all.

JAK inhibitors are not a cure, but rather a new treatment option. We think it is important for anyone considering a JAK inhibitor medicine to understand that it is a long-term, maybe even life-long, medication and that clinical trials indicate that hair is likely to fall out again is treatment is stopped. This is an important consideration, as there might be reasons why a patient must stop, such as adverse side effects, or choose to stop, such as pregnancy.

Learning about any new medicine

JAK inhibitor medicines have acceptable safety profiles, but we think it is important that anyone considering any treatment understands the potential side effects and risks associated with each medicine. Helpfully, the Electronic Medicines Compendium (EMC) publish patient information leaflets (PILs) for medicines on its website. This can assist patients in educating themselves, ahead of any conversations with their clinicians. You can search for the patient information leaflet for a medicine here.

Doctors will explain risks and benefits to patients, but we encourage anyone embarking on any treatment to weigh up the risks and benefits for themselves. We want those in our community who are starting any new treatment regime, to go into it fully informed about the choice they are making.

To treat or not to treat, it’s your choice

As with many things relating to alopecia, it is about finding what is best for you. Our choices regarding treatment will be individual to us and we won’t all be making the same decisions. For anyone who either cannot try a treatment, has to stop a treatment, or does not wish to try a treatment, we want to be clear that no treatment at all is still ok. 

Living well with alopecia does not have to mean having a treatment that brings our hair back.  Living well with alopecia can mean adapting to having hair loss and living confidently with the visible difference this can bring. This is possible, and there are many people in our community doing just that.

If you are finding it challenging to live well with alopecia, being in touch with others who have experienced the same can help. We have a variety of options for peer support, including face-to-face groups, online support meetings, private Facebook groups, national and regional events, and a website full of information, advice, and personal experience blogs.