New studies have seen a possibility of curing vitiligo with a common arthritis drug that is already being prescribed on the NHS.

What is Vitiligo?Vitiligo is a common, psychologically devastating skin condition that affects around 650,000 people in the UK. It causes skin to lose its pigmentation, and current treatments, such as steroid creams and light therapy are only partially effective in the reverse of the problem.

A drug, called Tofacitinib, which is currently being prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis has been shown to re-pigment the skin.

During the studies carried out in the US, a 53-year-old patient with prominent vitiligo covering her face, hands and body was given the drug for five months and found that her condition virtually disappeared. Only a few spots remained on her body, and all of the vitiligo had disappeared from her face and hands.

Dr Brett King, who undertook the study said, “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. It’s a first, and it could revolutionise the treatment of vitiligo and may be a huge step forward in the treatment of patients with this condition.”

Dr King is hoping to begin a wider clinical trial into the effectiveness of using Tofacitinib for vitiligo. In 2014, Dr King also showed that Tofacitinib could be used to treat alopecia, which is caused when the body’s own immune system becomes confused and starts to attack hair follicles. The drug stops the chemical pathway that triggers the immune system response, allowing the hair to grow back.

Because vitiligo is caused by a similar immune response, which destroys pigment-forming cells called melanocytes, researchers speculated that the same treatment used in alopecia should work to restore pigmentation and colour to the skin.

Although this treatment is looking promising for vitiligo patients, it is too soon to be demanding Tofacitinib from your doctor. Without proper research and studies, it is impossible to know the side effects and lasting impacts that Tofacitinib has on our bodies when being used for vitiligo.

Dr Deepak Rallan, Diamond Skin Care.