Alopecia drug approved by NICE

A significant milestone has been reached in the treatment of severe hair loss, as a new medication has received a recommendation for use within the NHS from a prominent health watchdog for the first time.

Ritlecitinib, a tablet manufactured by Pfizer to be taken once a day, has been endorsed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for treating severe alopecia areata in NHS patients. It works by reducing the enzymes responsible for inflammation and subsequent hair loss at the follicular level and is licensed for patients aged 12 and over.

Alopecia areata, affecting around 400,000 people across the UK at various stages of life, is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles.

This recommendation follows NICE’s initial rejection of the drug in September 2023. It comes after the manufacturer provided NICE with additional information and a more substantial price discount.

Helen Knight, Director of Medicines Evaluation at NICE, expressed satisfaction at the decision, noting the significant impact severe alopecia can have on individuals’ health and well-being. She highlighted the innovative nature of the treatment, marking the first instance of a medication for severe alopecia being recommended by NICE for NHS usage.

Sue Schilling, Chief Executive of Alopecia UK, expressed gratitude to volunteers and the committee for their efforts in reaching the decision, heralding it as a monumental day for the alopecia areata community. She highlighted the long-standing need for licensed treatment options accessible via NHS pathways, stressing the importance of keeping referral pathways open for patients with alopecia areata.

An NHS spokesperson acknowledged the significant impact of severe alopecia areata on individuals’ health and quality of life, underscoring the potential benefits of this latest treatment option for thousands of affected individuals.