Combo Therapy May Be More Effective Vitiligo Treatment

Phototherapy with melanin stimulating hormone was more effective in skin repigmentation than phototherapy alone

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) To combat the patchy loss of skin color that comes with vitiligo, a new study tested a combination treatment involving a hormone and light-based phototherapy to treat the skin condition.

Researchers in Michigan found that the combo therapy was more effective in returning skin color to people with vitiligo — compared to simply using phototherapy. 

"Talk with a dermatologist about treating vitiligo."

Henry Lim, MD of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, and colleagues tested how well a combination treatment for vitiligo worked.

Vitiligo is a skin condition marked by blotchy, discolored skin. It occurs when cells that make melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color, die or stop working.

The study authors assessed treatment with narrowband UV-B phototherapy combined with afamelanotide, a hormone that stimulates melanin production.

For the study, 28 vitiligo patients were given a combo therapy. Another 27 patients were just treated with narrowband UV-B phototherapy.

Phototherapy, or light-based therapy, is used to treat some skin conditions. Narrowband therapy uses a smaller range of light than broadband.

The authors wrote that the combo therapy “should be considered as an option that could significantly enhance the rate and the total surface area of repigmentation.”

“The results of this study offer hope to patients with vitiligo and the treatment of this disfiguring disease,” they wrote.

Patients on the combo treatment had repigmentation, or return of skin color, of the face in 41 days — compared to 61 days for patients who only had phototherapy.

For those same groups, repigmentation of the upper extremities came at 46 and 69 days, respectively.

The combo group had 48.64 percent repigmentation of affected skin after 168 days — compared to 33.26 percent in the single-treatment group.

The study was published online Sept. 17 in JAMA Dermatology.

Clinuvel Pharmaceuticals funded the research. Dr. Lim served as a consultant for Clinuvel Pharmaceuticals. The other authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
September 17, 2014
Last Updated:
September 18, 2014