About Ritlecitinib (Litfulo), an over-the-counter treatment for severe alopecia areata in people 12 years and older

About Ritlecitinib (Litfulo), an over-the-counter treatment for severe alopecia areata in people 12 years and older

If you suffer from an autoimmune disease called alopecia areata, then you may be in luck! Ritlecitinib is a cutting-edge medication used to treat severe alopecia areata cases. On this page, you’ll find everything you need to know about Ritlecitinib: what is it, is it safe, and how do I get it?


What is Ritlecitinib?

In 2022, Pfizer announced the release of a new drug branded LITFULO. LITFULO (Ritlecitinib) is the first medication of its type and enables hair regrowth for patients suffering from an autoimmune condition called alopecia areata.

It comes as little surprise that Pfizer has been developing Ritlecitinib in clinical trials over the last couple of years. It is estimated that 160 million people across the globe suffer from Alopecia Areata (NORD, 2022), making it a prevalent hair loss condition, alongside pattern hair loss conditions such as MPB and FPB.

According to Pfizer, Ritlecitinib can be taken as a “once-daily oral treatment”, usually in the form of 50mg oral tablets, and is suitable “for individuals 12 years of age and older with severe alopecia areata” (Pfizer, 2023).

Ritlecitinib is called a “Janus Kinase” (JAK) inhibitor, or “Jikinib” for short. JAK inhibitors work by preventing signalling molecules from communicating with immune cells in the body that are responsible for alopecia areata-related hair loss.

Several clinical trials have shown Ritlecitinib to be an effective treatment of severe alopecia. It specifically targets the JAK-3 molecule, which is believed to cause alopecia areata. As Ritlecitinib only targets one JAK molecule, researchers believe this may lead to fewer side effects when taking this medication (Tosti, 2022).

Patients who take Ritlecitinib will not only see an and to their patchy hair loss on the scalp but also see hair regrowth in these areas. In turn, this should leave patients achieving dense and thick scalp hair coverage, negating any signs that the patient has alopecia areata.

Who Can Take Ritlecitinib?

LITFULO, or Ritlecitinib, is eligibile for patients who have a severe case of alopecia areata. Adults and adolescents (12+) are both able to take Ritlecitinib. This is useful alopecia areata usually becomes prevalent in a person’s teens, twenties, or thirties.

How Does Ritlecitinib Combat Alopecia Areata?

Put simply, Ritlecitinib works by altering the body’s chemistry to stop alopecia areata from binding onto hair follicles and causing hair loss. If the malignant immune cells of the hair follicles are prevented from attacking hair follicles, then hair loss cannot occur and significant hair regrowth can take place simultaneously!

One of the common bodily systems associated with autoimmune conditions is Janus Kinase (JAK) enzymes. JAK cells are part of the body’s signalling system to inform the body’s immune cells (lymphocytes) that a foreign entity or cell has entered the body and needs to be dealt with.

From here, immune cells will attack the perceived foreign body (in AA cases, the hair follicle) and neutralise the threat. Usually, this results in inflammation within the body; in alopecia patients, this is what causes scalp hair loss.

Ritlecitinib is called a “JAK inhibitor”. JAK inhibitors prevent the JAK enzymes from communicating with the body’s lymphocytes and stop these immune cells from attacking parts of the body unnecessarily. Alopecia areata has been linked with the JAK-3 enzyme and so Ritlecitinib looks to inhibit this enzyme from functioning.

By preventing JAK 3 Kinase from binding with lymphocytes and attacking the body’s hair follicles, the follicle’s typical hair growth cycle is maintained, preventing unnecessary hair loss from occurring.

Other JAK inhibitors are used to treat different autoimmune conditions, particularly Rheumatoid arthritis. These treatments work in very similar ways to Ritlecitinib, targeting specific JAK enzymes responsible for chronic inflammation in other areas of the body.

How Effective is Ritlecitinib at Treating Severe Alopecia Areata?

Clinical research has shown Ritlecitinib to be extremely effective at treating severe cases of alopecia areata, even alopecia totalis (alopecia universalis).