Methotrexate for alopecia areata: A systematic review and meta-analysis

      Background

      Methotrexate has been used both as monotherapy and as an adjunct to corticosteroids in the treatment of alopecia areata (AA), though there exists a paucity of definitive evidence and guidelines in this setting.

      Objectives

      To 1) determine the efficacy and risks associated with methotrexate therapy for AA, 2) determine the differences in efficacy of combination (methotrexate plus corticosteroids) versus stand-alone (methotrexate) treatment, and 3) determine the relative efficacy of methotrexate in adult versus pediatric populations.

      Methods

      A systematic review and meta-analysis was performed according to recommended PRISMA [Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses] guidelines.

      Results

      Methotrexate has reasonable effectiveness in patients with severe AA; adults appear to be more responsive to methotrexate treatment than pediatric patients. Combination treatment results in a higher complete response rate than methotrexate stand-alone treatment. A large proportion of patients had recurrence in the setting of tapering treatment. Complication rates were acceptable and similar between adult and pediatric patients.

      Limitations

      The studies reviewed were retrospective observational studies with heterogeneity between centers in terms of methotrexate dosages and protocols in use for AA, and there was a lack of data beyond 1 year for the adjunctive treatments.

      Conclusion

      Methotrexate is an effective monotherapy or adjunct therapy in combination with corticosteroids in the treatment of severe AA.

      Key words

      Abbreviations used:

      AA ( alopecia areata), CI ( confidence interval)
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