New FDA-Approved Olumiant for Hair Loss from Severe Alopecia Areata

Hair loss is an incredibly common affliction. It can be both physically and emotionally draining. Many go through the feeling of being powerless when faced with the sudden onset of hair loss. A sense of hopelessness can often be associated with finding effective treatments that work.

. Thankfully, researchers have taken one step closer to alleviating this struggle after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a new prescription medication for severe alopecia areata: Olumiant. If you or someone close to you has been looking for relief from their hair loss journey, here's what you need to know about this exciting development in fighting alopecia areata.

Understanding Alopecia Areata

An autoimmune condition known as alopecia areata commonly affects hair follicles. Little, rounded patches of hair loss appear on the scalp or in other areas of the body as a result. Anyone can develop alopecia areata at any age, and it is not a severe medical condition. Yet, the condition can significantly affect a person's quality of life, particularly if there is considerable hair loss.

Types of Alopecia Areata

The severity of alopecia areata can range from mild to severe. In mild cases, there may just be a small patch of hair loss, which may not be noticeable to others. In moderate situations, the scalp or other body areas may experience several patches of hair loss. In severe instances, the entire body (alopecia universalis) or the scalp (alopecia totalis) may experience full hair loss.

There are several different types of alopecia areata, including −

  • Alopecia Areata Patchy − This is the most common type of alopecia areata, characterized by round or oval patches of hair loss on the scalp or other areas of the body.

  • Alopecia Areata Totalis − This type of alopecia areata involves the complete loss of hair on the scalp.

  • Alopecia Areata Universalis − This is the most severe form of alopecia areata, which results in complete hair loss on the scalp and the entire body, including eyebrows and eyelashes.

  • Ophiasis − This type of alopecia areata results in hair loss in a band-like pattern around the sides and lower back of the scalp.

  • Diffuse Alopecia Areata − This type of alopecia areata results in diffuse hair loss, which affects the entire scalp rather than just patches of hair.

It's important to note that the different types of alopecia areata can overlap and can progress from one type to another over time.

Current Treatment Options

Alopecia areata currently has few effective treatment options and no known cure. The primary goal of treatment is to accelerate the growth of new hair. The hair will typically regrow on its own in time, but it may take months or even years.

One of the most popular therapies for alopecia areata is topical corticosteroids. They work by lowering inflammation and suppressing the immune system, and they can be applied directly to the affected area. Intralesional corticosteroid injections are another option for treatment, which entail injecting corticosteroids directly into the affected area to help in promoting hair growth.

Topical immunotherapy may be suggested in some circumstances. Applying a chemical to the problematic area can result in an allergic reaction that promotes hair growth. Furthermore, oral immunosuppressants that lower inflammation by inhibiting the immune system may be administered.

FDA Approval of Olumiant for Alopecia Areata

On March 4th, 2021, the FDA approved Olumiant (baricitinib) for the treatment of hair loss caused by severe alopecia areata. This decision represents the first time the FDA has approved a medication that addresses the entire body rather than a specific area for alopecia areata. Olumiant is an oral medicine that reduces inflammation by inhibiting specific bodily enzymes. Olumiant may also aid in preventing the immune system from attacking hair follicles by lowering inflammation, which could promote hair growth.

Clinical Trials and Results

The FDA initially approved Olumiant in 2018 to treat the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis. Then now, Olumiant was approved for the treatment of alopecia areata on the basis of two clinical trials comprising 546 people who had the condition in varying degrees of severity. Those who took Olumiant experienced greater hair regrowth than those who took a placebo in both studies.

60% of the 327 alopecia areata patients who took Olumiant experienced hair regrowth of at least 50%, as opposed to 11% of the patients who took a placebo in the first trial. In the second trial, which had 219 patients with alopecia totalis or universalis, 47% of those using Olumiant experienced at least 50% hair growth, as opposed to 18% of those taking a placebo.

Side Effects and Risks

Olumiant includes risks and possible side effects, just like all medicines. Below are some of the common side effects;

  • Upper respiratory infections

  • Headaches

  • Acne

  • high cholesterol (hyperlipidemia)

  • Increase in the enzyme creatinine phosphokinase

  • Urinary tract infections

  • Elevated levels of liver enzymes

  • Inflammation of hair follicles (folliculitis)

  • Fatigue

  • Lower respiratory infections

  • Nausea

  • Genital yeast infections (Candida infections)

  • Anemia

  • Deficiency in certain types of white blood cells (neutropenia)

  • Abdominal pain

Using Olumiant with other JAK inhibitors, biologic immunomodulators, cyclosporine, or other strong immunosuppressants is not advised. Olumiant users should be closely watched for signs of infection and shouldn't use the medication if they have an infection that is actively spreading. Olumiant may also cause blood clots, elevated cholesterol, and liver issues as side effects. Before beginning therapy, patients with a history of blood clots, heart disease, or liver issues should talk with their doctor about the benefits and drawbacks of Olumiant.

Considerations for Patients

Olumiant's FDA approval for the treatment of alopecia areata is a significant step towards the treatment of this condition despite the potential risks and side effects of this medication. Olumiant may be advantageous for people with severe alopecia areata despite certain concerns.

Before starting treatment, patients should discuss the potential risks and benefits of Olumiant with their doctor. Patients must also be aware of the medication's risks and side effects, and they must let their doctor know if they have any unusual symptoms or physical changes.

Patients with alopecia areata can take other actions in addition to medicine to encourage hair growth and control their disease. Using gentle hair care products and avoiding hair styling methods like tight braids and ponytails may help with this. Some patients might also choose to wear a wig or hairpiece.


The advancement of medical treatments is truly remarkable. It is a reflection of the commitment to research and clinical studies that make discoveries and cures like Olumiant so amazing. What's more, it reminds us never to give up on hope, even in the face of difficult diagnoses. Everyone deserves a chance at being their best selves and Olumiant helps make that possible for those suffering from severe alopecia areata. This FDA-approved drug not only increases hair regrowth but gives people back their confidence and helps them approach life with optimism again! I am personally thrilled at this news and its potential to change countless lives for the better.

Updated on: 04-Apr-2023


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