Tofacitinib for the treatment of severe alopecia areata and variants: A study of 90 patients

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017 Jan;76(1):22-28. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2016.09.007. Epub 2016 Nov 2.


Background: Alopecia areata (AA) is a common autoimmune disorder. There are no reliably effective therapies for AA.

Objective: We sought to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the Janus kinase 1/3 inhibitor, tofacitinib, in a series of patients over an extended period of time.

Methods: This is a retrospective study of patients age 18 years or older with AA with at least 40% scalp hair loss treated with tofacitinib. The primary end point was the percent change in Severity of Alopecia Tool (SALT) score during treatment.

Results: Ninety patients met inclusion criteria. Of 65 potential responders to therapy, defined as those with alopecia totalis or alopecia universalis with duration of current episode of disease of 10 years or less or alopecia areata, 77% achieved a clinical response, with 58% of patients achieving greater than 50% change in SALT score over 4 to 18 months of treatment. Patients with AA experienced a higher percent change in SALT score than did patients with alopecia totalis or alopecia universalis (81.9% vs 59.0%). Tofacitinib was well tolerated, and there were no serious adverse events.

Limitations: The retrospective nature of the data, the relatively small number of patients, and lack of a control group are limitations.

Conclusion: Tofacitinib should be considered for the treatment of severe AA, alopecia totalis, and alopecia universalis; tofacitinib dose response will be better defined by randomized controlled trials.

Keywords: Janus kinase; alopecia areata; tofacitinib.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alopecia / drug therapy
  • Alopecia Areata / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Piperidines / adverse effects
  • Piperidines / therapeutic use*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Pyrimidines / adverse effects
  • Pyrimidines / therapeutic use*
  • Pyrroles / adverse effects
  • Pyrroles / therapeutic use*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Piperidines
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Pyrimidines
  • Pyrroles
  • tofacitinib

Supplementary concepts

  • Alopecia universalis