The Consumer’s Guide to JAK Inhibitors for Vitiligo

What you need to know about a new topical medication for unsegmented vitiligo.

V itiligo is as challenging to treat as it is to live with. There aren’t many therapies to choose from, and most have significant drawbacks. That could be changing. In June 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor to treat unsegmented vitiligo, the most common type of the condition, in people 12 and up.

The drug, ruxolitinib (Opzelura), is a topical cream that’s already used to treat eczema, which, like vitiligo, is an autoimmune skin condition. Now that the drug has gotten the green light from the FDA to treat vitiligo, it’s likely paving the way for other topical JAK inhibitors to become available for treating this challenging disease.

People of color may be especially interested in trying a topical JAK inhibitor. Although vitiligo isn’t more prevalent among them, it is more noticeable. “This is a huge win for the community and for dermatologists who treat vitiligo,” says New York City dermatologist Daniel Gutierrez, MD, vitiligo specialist with NYU Langone Health.

Which is all to say, it may be worth talking to your dermatologist about JAK inhibitors if your current treatment for vitiligo isn’t working as well as you’d like. The same is true if you have a teenager with the condition, as ruxolitinib is approved for kids as young as 12. Before you do, learn all you can about the drug.

6 Essential Facts About Topical JAK Inhibitors for Vitiligo

7 FAQs About Using a Topical JAK Inhibitor to Treat Vitiligo

Before trying any new medication, you’re likely to have questions about it. The answers to these frequently asked questions about ruxolitinib can help you build a foundation of knowledge about the drug, should you decide you’d like to try it.

Should You Try a Topical JAK Inhibitor?



Ask yourself these questions as a first step toward deciding if you’d like to talk to your dermatologist about trying a JAK inhibitor to treat vitiligo.

  1. Am I satisfied with my current treatment plan?
  2. Am I able to follow the plan as directed?
  3. Has my vitiligo improved as well as I’d hoped?
  4. Have new patches cropped up, even though I’ve been following my treatment plan?
  5. Does the appearance of my skin have negative effects on my quality of life, self-image, or mood?
  6. Have I tried all other treatment options available to me and not found one that works?

Doctor Discussion


To make sure your discussion with your dermatologist gets you all the information you need about trying a topical JAK inhibitor for vitiligo, come prepared with specific questions to ask. Some examples:

  1. Do you think it’s possible for me to gain better control of my vitiligo?
  2. What else can I do to better manage these vitiligo areas?
  3. Do I need to take a break from certain treatments?
  4. Is there anything I can do to help make my treatment more effective? 
  5. What do I need to know about sun exposure?
  6. What should I do if the vitiligo patches on my skin don’t improve or start to spread?
  7. Am I a good candidate for the topical JAK inhibitor ruxolitinib?
View the companion visual Web Story on The Consumer’s Guide to JAK Inhibitors for Vitiligo.