Could azathioprine be considered as a therapeutic alternative in the treatment of alopecia areata? A pilot study
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease resulting in partial or total nonscarring hair loss and the treatment of severe alopecia areata is difficult. The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of azathioprine as a systemic monotherapy for moderate to severe alopecia areata. A total of 20 patients [14 men (70%) and six women (30%)] with minimum 6 months history of alopecia areata were included. The extent of scalp hair regrowth during and after the completion of the 6 months treatment was evaluated by the Severity of Alopecia Tool (the SALT score). The daily drug intake was calculated as 2 mg/kg of body weight. Mean duration of current episode of scalp hair loss was 26.4 (26.4 ± ۱۷) months. Mean regrowth percentage was 52.3% (52.3 ± ۳۸٫۴). Mean hair loss percentage before treatment was 72.7% (72.7 ± ۲۸٫۳) compared with 33.5% (33.5 ± ۳۰٫۷) after 6 months of azathioprine treatment. This showed a highly significant statistical difference (Paired t‐test, CI 95% = ۲۱٫۵–۵۴٫۱). Mean hair loss score (S0–S5) before treatment was 3.9 (3.9 ± ۱٫۶) and after 6 months of azathioprine treatment was 1.8 (1.8 ± ۱٫۳). Assessment showed significant difference from baseline score (sign test, P < ۰٫۰۰۰۱). No significant statistical difference was observed with respect to gender before and after azathioprine treatment. Treatment with azathioprine as a systemic monotherapy clinically produces relevant improvement in moderate‐to‐severe alopecia areata. Generally azathioprine is a low‐cost and well‐tolerated drug and with controlled studies on larger number of patients, long‐term efficacy and safety of this treatment should be investigated.