Alopecia areata, the most prevalent form of alopecia affecting individuals of all genders and ethnic backgrounds, typically emerges during the teenage years or early adulthood. However, exceptions do occur. In a groundbreaking move, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently granted approval for Pfizer’s ritlecitinib as a viable treatment for teenagers combating this condition.
The medication, now marketed as Litfulo, will be conveniently available in the form of a once-daily pill suitable for adolescents aged 12 and above. While the full-year supply is priced at $49,000, Pfizer has clarified that the actual costs may vary depending on individual health care plans.
Pfizer has emphasized their commitment to facilitating patient access to vital treatments. They have established copay savings programs for commercially insured patients and a patient assistance initiative to ensure eligible individuals can obtain LITFULO. Through the Pfizer Dermatology Patient Access Program, qualified patients will receive valuable support for procuring this medication.
During a clinical trial conducted at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, it was discovered that 30% of participants experienced hair regrowth over a 24-week period after receiving the treatment. By the 48-week mark, this figure increased to 40%, with a significant portion of those patients initially experiencing severe scalp hair loss ranging from 50% to 100%.
Moreover, after 24 weeks, 30% of participants observed a reduction of 20% in scalp hair loss.
For 18-year-old Maria Strattner, who has been affected by alopecia, participation in this trial marked a significant milestone in her life. At the age of 13, she experienced a rapid loss of hair, including her eyebrows and eyelashes, within a mere two weeks.
Since joining the trial in 2020, Strattner managed to regrow her hair. However, it grew back with a different color, shifting from her previous blonde to a rich brown shade, accompanied by tighter waves.
Dr. Brett King, the principal investigator of the clinical trial and an associate professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine, explained that it is common for the medication to result in hair growth that may differ in characteristics from the original hair. He further clarified that ritlecitinib should be regarded as a treatment for alopecia rather than a cure. Patients are advised to continue long-term usage of the drug to maintain steady hair growth.
Alopecia areata occurs when the body’s cells mistakenly target and attack hair follicles, leading to hair loss. Ritlecitinib, functioning as a JAK inhibitor, disrupts the body’s inflammatory response, effectively preventing further hair loss.
According to data shared by the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, a California-based non-profit organization, approximately 7 million people, which accounts for 2% of the U.S. population, endure the challenges of this condition. Each year, 300,000 individuals across the country are affected by alopecia areata. The condition garnered significant attention in 2022 when Jada Pinkett Smith, a well-known celebrity, who also lives with alopecia, became embroiled in controversy at the Academy Awards.
The FDA’s approval of Pfizer’s Litfulo heralds a promising development in the treatment of severe alopecia areata among teenagers. With a comprehensive patient support system in place, Pfizer aims to make this groundbreaking medication more accessible to those in need, offering hope for individuals grappling with the distressing effects of this condition.