This new class of drugs is proven to be safe and effective for treating atopic dermatitis and alleviating symptoms like painful, itchy skin.

When you have a skin condition like atopic dermatitis, chances are you’re looking for a treatment that can help you find long-term relief for the hallmark itchy, painful skin rash.

You may have heard about the newest Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved treatment option, Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors. Research shows these drugs are a safe, effective treatment option for atopic dermatitis. They’re an especially promising option for people who haven’t yet found relief with the use of other treatments.

To help you understand what JAK inhibitors are, we’ve provided the answers to some frequently asked questions about this new drug and its role in treating atopic dermatitis.

To understand what JAK inhibitors do, you first need to understand what happens in the body with atopic dermatitis.

Cytokines, which are messengers of your immune system, are at least partially responsible for the inflammatory response in the body that’s associated with atopic dermatitis. These messengers use what is known as the JAK-STAT pathway to create an immune system response that’s found in conditions like atopic dermatitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis.

JAK inhibitors work by blocking one or more of the four JAK-STAT pathways. When these pathways are blocked, the inflammatory response is interrupted. This reduces the underlying inflammation in the body associated with atopic dermatitis, which therefore lessens associated symptoms.

In general, a doctor may recommend JAK inhibitors when other medications are not providing adequate results. These drugs can help with mild to severe atopic dermatitis symptoms, depending on which one your doctor prescribes.

There are currently three JAK inhibitors approved for treating atopic dermatitis:

  • Ruxolitinib (Opzelura): topical cream for mild to moderate eczema in people ages 12 and up
  • Abrocitinib (Cibinqo): tablet for use in refractory, moderate to severe atopic dermatitis in adults
  • Upadacitinib (Rinvoq): tablet for use in moderate to severe atopic dermatitis in people ages 12 and up

However, even more are going through clinical trials and may be approved in the future.

Researchers have found that JAK inhibitors provide effective relief from atopic dermatitis symptoms with generally few safety concerns. However, ongoing real-world studies are needed to determine the long-term effects and safety of using these drugs.

Some people who take these drugs may experience mild to moderate side effects, including:

  • headache
  • acne
  • nausea
  • upper respiratory tract infection
  • herpes infection
  • selected laboratory abnormalities

JAK inhibitors suppress the immune system. This can make you more susceptible to infections, such as upper respiratory tract infections. You should take additional precautions to prevent illness and avoid people who are sick when taking these drugs.

In clinical trials, only a few people experienced series-adverse reactions, making these medications generally safe for most people. However, more studies are needed to look at the long-term safety of these drugs.

JAK inhibitors start to work quickly.

In a review of studies in 2022, researchers noted symptoms improved within 4 weeks of starting JAK inhibitor treatment. In other words, you should start to notice the effects within about a month of starting on a JAK inhibitor. However, since everyone is different, you may notice effects start sooner or later than the 4-week mark.

A doctor will likely schedule a follow-up with you after prescribing a JAK inhibitor to help determine whether the drug is effective a few weeks after you start treatment with a JAK inhibitor.

JAK inhibitors are a new treatment for atopic dermatitis. These drugs target the immune system activity in the body related to atopic dermatitis. Clinical trials have shown they are effective in treating the condition and have a generally good safety profile.

Most side effects are mild, with headache being commonly reported. However, you may also be more susceptible to infections, such as an upper respiratory infection, so you may want to take extra precautions to prevent illness.

More research is also underway for developing new types of JAK inhibitors and monitoring their long-term safety and effectiveness. As more data become available, doctors will be able to better determine who’s a good candidate for JAK inhibitors.