Monotherapy for Alopecia Areata: A Systematic Review and Network Meta-Analysis

Skin Appendage Disord. 2019 Nov;5(6):331-337. doi: 10.1159/000501940. Epub 2019 Aug 29.


Background: There are many treatments available for alopecia areata; however, none are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Thus, there is clinician benefit in efficacy comparison.

Methods: A network meta-analysis was used to create direct and indirect comparisons of alopecia areata studies in addition to an inconsistency analysis, risk of bias, and quality of evidence assessment.

Results: For mild disease, intralesional corticosteroids were ranked the most likely to produce a response at 78.9% according to SUCRA (surface under the cumulative ranking curve) followed by topical corticosteroids (67.9%), prostaglandin analogs (67.1%), diphenylcyclopropenone (DPCP, 63.4%), topical minoxidil (61.2%), and squaric acid dibutylester (SADBE, 35.0%). In contrast, for moderate to severe disease (>50% scalp hair loss), DPCP was the top-ranked treatment (87.9%), followed by laser (77.9%), topical minoxidil (55.5%), topical corticosteroids (50.1%), SADBE (49.7%), and topical tofacitinib (47.6%). There were insufficient eligible trials to include oral tofacitinib in the network.

Conclusion: Statistically significant evidence is presented for the use of intralesional and topical corticosteroids for treatment of mild disease and DPCP, laser, SADBE, topical minoxidil and topical corticosteroids for moderate to severe disease. Further controlled trials are required to analyze the relative efficacy of oral tofacitinib.

Keywords: Calcineurin inhibitors; Corticosteroids; Minoxidil; Prostaglandins; Tofacitinib; Topical immunotherapy.