First FDA-approved drug for vitiligo is a ‘game changer’

Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition affecting nearly 2 million Americans. It causes patches of skin to lose color or turn white, and it has no cure. But a new treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration offers hope.

“The introduction of topical Ruxolitinib is a game changer in the management of vitiligo,” said Dr. Adam Friedman, chair of dermatology at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

“Vitiligo imposes a large burden on patients’ lives and many patients suffer from shame and embarrassment, low self-confidence and social isolation,” he said.

The topical cream takes about six months to work and might not be covered by insurance.

Dr. Adam Friedman is the chair of Dermatology at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. (Courtesy Adam Friedman)

“It will be an insurance by insurance situation,” Friedman said. “Given this is the only FDA-approved therapy, our hope is that insurance companies will cover it to provide relief for the up to 2% of the population that suffers with this condition.”

Friedman emphasized that the condition is not a cosmetic problem. It’s an autoimmune medical disease.

“Just because something doesn’t hurt or itch or flake doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt in other ways,” he said. “It’s important not to write off the burden of this condition, even though it doesn’t physically hurt, it doesn’t itch.

“The pain can often be invisible and the pain can really be resulting from shame, self-ostracism from one’s community and friends. And that can have a downstream effect on one’s quality of life.”

If you suffer from vitiligo and are interested in the new therapy, Friedman suggests you see a board certified dermatologist near you.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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