For many of us, our hair is our pride and glory, so experiencing hair loss can bring us great grief. Alopecia is a disease that affects Blacks more than white or Asian Americans. If you are one of the people living with this disease, there is a new, first-of-its-kind treatment that may be able to provide you some relief. The first pill to treat adults with severe alopecia was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday.
Olumiant (baricitinib) is the first FDA-approved alopecia therapy that treats the entire body rather than a specific spot, the agency said in a news release announcing the approval.
“Access to safe and effective treatment options is crucial for the significant number of Americans affected by severe alopecia,” Dr. Kendall Marcus, director of the Division of Dermatology and Dentistry in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the FDA, said in the news release. “Today’s approval will help fulfill a significant unmet need for patients with severe alopecia areata.”
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What is alopecia areata?
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own hair follicles, causing hair to fall out, often in clumps. It affects more than 300,000 people in the United States each year, according to the FDA.
One of those is actress Jada Pinkett Smith, who first revealed her struggles with hair loss in 2018.
For most people, the disease involves one or a few small bald patches on the head. But those with severe cases may notice small bald spots on their heads one day, and then they no longer have any hair on their bodies three months, or even three weeks, later.
Take the case of Christian Daniels. The 27-year-old data center technician from Peoria, Ill., says his hair started falling out when he was 25. Within a month, all of his body hair was gone.
Even his vision was affected: Without eyelashes, dust would get into his eyes and irritate them so much he began putting Vaseline on his eyelids.
The pandemic was a “blessing in disguise” because he could work at home.
“I felt like my life had been put on hold,” he told The New York Times. “I felt like the only thing that mattered was how to get my hair back.”
Now, after being part of a trial of the drug that prompted the FDA approval, “It’s almost like it [alopecia]