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Does Gilenya cause hair loss?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Fookes, BPharm. Last updated on April 28, 2020.

Official Answer

by Drugs.com
  • Hair loss is an uncommon side effect of Gilenya.
  • In clinical trials, 3% of people had hair loss who were taking Gilenya, compared with 2% of people taking placebo.

Gilenya (fingolimod) is an immunosuppressant that may be used for the treatment of relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS) in adults, and children and adolescents aged 10 years and older.

In clinical trials, hair loss was reported by 3% of participants, compared with 2% of participants who were assigned a placebo (pretend) pill.

Blog reports also occasionally report varying forms of hair loss or slow regrowth. For example:

  • A 56-year-old male also suffering from stress noticed hair loss that started 18 months after starting Gilenya
  • A woman who had her hair cut short reported only an inch of hair growth in a year
  • Another woman reported 6 weeks of hair loss after starting Gilenya and then no more hair loss.

It is difficult to decide whether some of these reports of hair loss may have just been an inevitable part of aging that would have occurred regardless of the administration of Gilenya.

What are the common side effects of Gilenya?

Side effects of Gilenya occurring in more than 1% of people include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • An increase in blood triglycerides
  • An increased risk of basal cell carcinoma (2%) and skin papilloma (3%)
  • An increased risk of infections, such as the flu, sinusitis, bronchitis, herpes zoster, and tinea versicolor
  • Back pain or other pain
  • Blood disorders
  • Blurred vision
  • Bradycardia (a slow heart rate)
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Headache
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver enzyme elevations
  • Migraine
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness.

How does Gilenya work?

Gilenya works by blocking the migration of lymphocytes (a type of immune cell) from the lymph nodes into the bloodstream.

Although it is not exactly known how fingolimod exerts its effects in multiple sclerosis it may be due to a decrease in the migration of lymphocytes into the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system).

Gilenya will not cure MS, it will only decrease the frequency of relapse symptoms.

What is Gilenya made from?

Gilenya is derived from myriocin (ISP-1), a natural immunosuppressant, and metabolite of the fungus Isaria sinclairii.

It was first made by Yoshitomi Pharmaceuticals in 1992 from ISP-I through chemical modification.

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