Anti-Cholesterol & Anti- Inflammatory
Alopecia areata is considered autoimmune in nature. Medications that lower or modify the effects of the immune system are traditionally used to treat alopecia areata.
A study done in 2015 suggested that medications that reduce cholesterol might help too. In addition to the ability of these drugs to lower cholesterol, they also reduce inflammation. The ‘statins’ are medications used to treat high cholesterol. It is estimated that about 3 millions Canadians and 30 millions Americans use statins to control their cholesterol. Ezetimibe is a second type of cholesterol lowering medication and works by blocking the absorption of cholesterol.
In the 2015 study, 19 patients with advanced alopecia areata were treated with two cholesterol medications – simvastatin and ezetimibe for 24 weeks. Remarkably, after 24 weeks, 14 of 19 patients (nearly 75% of patients) were found to regrow hair at least to some extent. The majority of those who continued the drug after the study period maintained their hair and most of patients who stopped the drug lost their hair again.
This is an interesting study, opening the doors to even larger studies of the use of these cholesterol lowering drugs in the treatment of alopecia areata. I think large studies are important as our own small studies haven't shown the same degree of promise. These drugs are well known in the population as cholesterol lowering drugs and so we have many years of experience with these drugs. Although side effects such as muscle pains, muscle damage, diarrhea, irritation of the liver, and a rise in blood sugars can occur with these medications, although they are relatively infrequent.
Study: Lattouf C and colleagues. Treatment of alopecia areata with simvastatin/ezetimibe. J Am Acad Dermatol 2015;
Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Vancouver office at 604.283.9299