NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Thinning hair and balding can be devastating for women.
It’s especially hard to treat when it’s an autoimmune hair loss called alopecia areata.
As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported Monday, some women are regrowing their hair with a drug for eczema.
You’d never know it looking at her, but Allison Mari has struggled with devastating hair loss her entire life.
“In 2016 and ’17 I lost 70 percent of the hair on my head, so that was the first time I had to wear a human hair wig,” Allison said.
Allison was diagnosed with alopecia areata as a child. It’s a condition that causes the immune system to attack hair follicles. Her alopecia didn’t respond to medications, so she enrolled in a new clinical trial at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
That’s where dermatologist Dr. Emma Guttman has been studying similarities between alopecia and eczema, a chronic inflammatory skin condition with severe itching and redness. Some of her severe eczema patients had grown their hair back as their skin improved.
“Then I started to think that maybe some treatments that are going into eczema and also some of the pathways that are involved in eczema may also be involved in alopecia,” Guttman said.
Allison was among 54 patients to take part in a study testing whether an Food and Drug Administration-approved drug to treat eczema called Dupilumab — brand name Dupixent — could help moderate to severe alopecia patients.
“Many of them did not have any hair growth, for example, for seven years or eight years, 10 years and miraculously they grow hair in the study,” Guttman said.
Allison said she has regrown hair in some places where she was bald for more than 20 years.
“I think a lot of us have given up, so I just really want people to realize there is hope out there and I think they are close to finding something that works,” Allison said.
Dupixent appears to be safe and has few side effects.
And even though the trial results won’t be complete until next year when the manufacturer will likely ask the FDA to approve the drug for alopecia, because it is already approved for eczema, doctors could prescribe it off-label for this type of hair loss.