Treatments for alopecia areata: A systematic review and network meta-analysis

Dermatol Ther. 2021 May;34(3):e14916. doi: 10.1111/dth.14916. Epub 2021 Mar 4.


Existing guidelines form no consensus for alopecia areata (AA) treatment due to the absence of a universal standard treatment and arbitrary selection of reference arms in randomized control trials (RCTs). The aim is to identify the best treatment and to rank treatments using systematic review and network meta-analysis. Data were extracted by the two investigators independently. Odds ratio (OR) of treatment success rate was pooled using the frequentist weighted least squares approach to random-model network meta-analysis. RCTs providing data of treatment success rate from PubMed, EMBASE, Web of Science, and manual search were included. About 54 RCTs consisting of 49 treatments and 3149 patients were included. Pentoxifylline plus topical corticosteroids had the highest treatment success rate compared with "no treatment," followed by pentoxifylline alone, topical calcipotriol plus narrowband ultraviolet radiation B phototherapy, topical calcipotriol, intralesional corticosteroids, systemic corticosteroids, minoxidil plus topical corticosteroids, topical bimatoprost, psoralen ultraviolet radiation A phototherapy, and tofacitinib. Even with the network meta-analysis, the best treatment because of independent loops and wide confidence intervals could not be identified. Treatment options above may be reasonable strategies, but further comparison is required.

Keywords: alopecia areata; network meta-analysis; systematic review; treatment; treatment efficacy.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Alopecia Areata* / diagnosis
  • Alopecia Areata* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Minoxidil
  • Network Meta-Analysis
  • Phototherapy
  • Ultraviolet Therapy*


  • Minoxidil