It’s normal to lose about 50–100 hairs a day, but if you’re experiencing more than that or noticing patches of thinning hair or baldness, it may be the beginning stages of hair loss. Although hereditary hair loss is the most common type—80 million men and women in the United States have it—another type of hair loss, alopecia areata is on the rise.
According to the Academy of Dermatology (AAD), researchers believe alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks its own hair. This causes smooth, round patches of hair loss on the scalp and other areas of the body. Most people see their hair regrow, but dermatologists treat people with this disorder to help the hair regrow more quickly. There’s currently no cure for the disorder, and the effects can cause a devastating blow to self-confidence.
Because of this, drug companies and their scientists are hard at work, eager to find a remedy that can help those who are suffering from alopecia areata. Two such companies, Concert Pharmaceuticals Inc and Aclaris Therapeutics Inc, are each in the process of testing a new drug (and competing to get it to market first), which would be the first FDA-approved drug to treat the condition.
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Mid-stage trials for Concert Pharma’s drug, CTP-543, were just put on clinical hold by the FDA this week due to a request for more data, which is a setback for its schedule, but sources say safety concerns were not raised. Aclaris Therapeutics’ ATI-50001 has said it plans to begin mid-stage trial testing in the second half of 2017.
Currently, options for alopecia areata treatment without a prescription include hair care products that contain minoxidil, an FDA-approved ingredient that can stop hairs from getting thinner and stimulate hair growth on the top of the scalp. There are also wearable devices that emit laser light into the scalp to stimulate hair growth.
However, Beverly Hills, CA, hair restoration specialist Natalie Attenello, MD, says these treatment options are varied with no sure guarantee and hair regrowth can take several months at the very least. “Another treatment option, such as the drugs in these studies, would be interesting because they may provide another treatment modality for those patients who suffer from this condition,” she explains. “The FDA has strict guidelines aimed at patient safety, so the hold on the Concert Pharma study is likely for good reason, especially if it is a medication aimed at altering one’s immune system. Either way, it should be exciting to see what other treatment options become available with time and technology.”
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