A drug used to reduce the symptoms of arthritis and which has more recently been used in the fight against COVID has been shown in trials to be highly effective in the treatment of eczema.
Under new NHS guidance baricitinib, taken as a pill, will be prescribed to patients with moderate to severe eczema who have not responded to at least one immunosuppressant.
Professor Anthony Bewley, consultant dermatologist at Bart's Health NHS Trust in London and investigator on the trial said, 'Eczema is a really awful condition. It's disfiguring and the itch is unbearable. This is an absolutely revolutionary treatment, because it can switch off the itch and inflammation. Sufferers will be able to get some much needed relief and sleep, and they'll see their skin heal too'.
Baricitinib is part of a class of medicines known as janus kinase inhibitors, or JAK inhibitors. They work by blocking the production of particular enzymes that cause inflammation in the body. In recent trials in the UK more than three quarters of volunteers saw their pain, itch and redness of their skin become less severe, while one third saw their eczema all but disappear.
34-yar old Max Addens from South London who took part in the trial suffered from severe eczema all his life. he said,' When I as a kid I'd get called horrible names at school because of my skin. When started work I still struggled with my confidence. I had bloody scratches all over my body from itching'.
Max tried steroid creams and UV therapy but says nothing worked. After being enrolled in the baricitinib trial he noticed a difference 'almost immediately'. He said, 'The itch went away immediately. Then over eight weeks or so my skin improved'. Several months into the treatment, Max says his eczema has almost gone.
Baricitinib causes far fewer side effects than medication currently offered on the NHS and can be taken indefinitely, though patients will need regular checkups with their doctor.