Researchers have successfully treated patients with moderate to severe eczema using a rheumatoid arthritis drug recently shown to reverse 2 other disfiguring skin conditions: vitiligo and alopecia areata.
The study, published early online in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, is evidence of a potential new era in eczema treatment.
Standard treatments for eczema, such as steroid creams and oral medicines, commonly fail to relieve symptoms in patients with moderate to severe eczema.
Based on current scientific models of eczema biology, Brett King, MD, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, and colleagues hypothesised that tofacitinib citrate would interrupt the immune response that causes eczema.
Treatment with tofacitinib led to dramatic improvement in 6 patients with moderate to severe eczema who had previously tried conventional therapies without success.
During treatment, all 6 patients reported significant reduction in itch as well as improved sleep. The redness and thickening of the skin diminished as well.
"These individuals were not only very happy with the results, they also expressed a tremendous sense of relief at being comfortable in their skin for the first time in many years," said Dr. King.
"Eczema affects millions of children and adults in the United States," he said. "I'm hopeful we are entering a whole new era in treatment."
The researchers noted that further research is needed to confirm the treatment's long-term efficacy and safety for patients with severe eczema.