“While it’s one case, we anticipated the successful treatment of this patient based on our current understanding of the disease and how the drug works,” says principal investigator Dr. Brett King, an assistant professor of dermatology at Yale.
The drug in question, tofacitinib, is typically used to treat moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disorder affecting the lining of the joints.
It belongs to a family of drugs known as Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors that have been approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Previously, Dr. King discovered that tofacitinib could be used to treat hair loss caused by alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the hair follicles.
Vitiligo is also considered to be an autoimmune disorder, with the immune system targeting skin cells called melanocytes that produce the skin’s pigmentation.
People with vitiligo develop patches on their skin that are devoid of pigmentation and color. In severe cases, the discoloration can cause significant psychological distress.
There are several treatments available for treating vitiligo, such as steroid creams and light therapy, but none of these are reliably effective in reversing the symptoms of the condition.