Doctors test arthritis drug for treating vitiligo

A single patient trial from researchers at the Yale School of Medicine has shown that it may be possible to treat vitiligo, a skin disorder resulting in the loss of pigment, using tofacitinib, an arthritis drug.

In a fascinating new case study, researchers have identified a new use for an existing drug used to treat arthritis. According to a report from Time, scientists at Yale University were able to restore the pigment to a woman suffering from a rare skin disorder called vitiligo.

Vitiligo causes the skin to lose its color in blotches, and is the same disorder that affected the late singer Michael Jackson. It affects up to three million people each year, and until now, doctors had little idea about how to effectively treat it.

A case study published in the journal JAMA Dermatology demonstrates a new possible remedy for patients suffering from vitiligo, which uses a drug originally intended for a different use. Researchers gave a 53-year-old patient suffering from the vitiligo doses of tofacitinib, a medication used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

After two months of treatment, the woman’s face, arms and hands started to show color again in the affected areas. After five months, the white spots on her face were almost entirely gone. Just a few stray spots of missing pigment remained on various body parts.

Although the study describes one specific case trial involving an individual patient, doctors are hopeful that the results can be reproduced in future trials.

According to Dr. Brett King, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine, the researchers anticipated the outcome based on the way the disease works and the way the medicine functions once it’s in the body. This was the first time the drug had been used to treat vitiligo, but the team is confident that they can prove the drug can restore the pigment in even more patients.

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