Arthritis Drug Restores Skin Color In Vitiligo Patients

Arthritis Drug Restores Skin Color In Vitiligo Patients
After five months of treatment, the patient's hands show
significant repigmentation. (Credit: Dr. Brett King)
A medication for treating rheumatoid arthritis has restored skin color in a patient suffering from vitiligo, according to new research. The disfiguring condition is best known as the disease that plagued late pop star Michael Jackson. The finding was published in JAMA Dermatology.

Vitiligo is a common, psychologically devastating condition that causes skin to lose its pigmentation or color. Current treatments, such as steroid creams and light therapy, are not reliably effective in reversing the disease. Recent advances in vitiligo research led investigators to consider an existing class of FDA-approved medications known as Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors, as a possible treatment.

Last year, the researchers broke new ground publishing a paper demonstrating the effectiveness of the JAK inhibitor tofacitinib citrate in treating hair loss caused by alopecia areata. They also believed the same medicine might be effective for vitiligo.

To test the hypothesis, the researchers 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 had been increasing.
Within two months of treatment, the patient experienced partial repigmentation on her face, arms, and hands - the areas that concerned her most. 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. Notably, tofacitinib caused no adverse side effects during the course of treatment.
The results could represent a breakthrough in vitiligo treatment, the researchers said. Further research would be necessary to confirm the drug's safety and efficacy, but the researchers hope to conduct a clinical trial using tofacitinib, or a similar medicine, ruxolitinib, for the treatment of vitiligo.
Based on material originally posted by Yale University.