Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What long lashes you have!

Wish you had longer, fuller eyelashes? Tired of raccoon eyes from mascara that won't stay where you put it? You might be tempted to check out Latisse, a glaucoma drug that has just been granted FDA approval for lash-lengthening.

The folks at Allergan, the manufacturer of Latisse, are (not coincidentally) the same people who brought you Botox (which also started its life as a drug for medical, rather than cosmetic, use). They'll charge slightly more for Latisse than for Lumigan (the version of the drug it sells for glaucoma).

Like all drugs, Latisse/Lumigan carries the risk of side effects. In clinical trials, 15 to 45% of patients experienced red eyes (conjunctival hyperemia) and/or itchiness. Other side effects include changes in eye or eyelid color, vision disturbances, foreign-body sensation, and systemic effects (mainly upper respiratory infections). Latisse is applied with an applicator, and just to the eyelid, and the dose is less--but still, these side effects aren't uncommon, and some of them are contrary to the goal of having more attractive eyes. Then again, compared with the risks associated with cosmetic surgery and other procedures (including Botox and other kinds of cosmetic injections), they're not so substantial.

For my part, I'm not all that interested in the ethical implications involved in women's decisions to use Latisse; I mean, in our current autonomy-centered age, how could it possibly be anyone's business if a woman wants to pay money to slop this stuff on her eyelids? Sure, there needs to be disclosure of the side effects, but they're not exactly life-threatening.

The re-release of Latisse raises other questions, though, about the commercial nature of drug development and the regulatory environment. In the current economic downturn, pharmaceutical companies--like everybody else--are needing to make hard cuts. What does it say about that industry when effort is devoted to cosmetic "treatments" rather than medical ones? And what does it say about us ("the market") if this really is the smarter investment for those businesses? Additionally, when there are consumer groups (rightly) up in arms about the tortoise pace of FDA review, why are we prioritizing Latisse over drugs that actually treat medical problems?

One more proof, as if we needed it, of how broken the US healthcare system really is.


Anonymous said...

"Vison disturbances and upper respitory infections?"
I'll just stick with mascara, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Actually, any company worth a grain of salt would run a cost/benefit analysis and see the potential margin benefit of repackaging an existing drug into the next Botox...

In essence, that which is for cosmetic use would fund the R&D efforts that could very well lead to funding the next medical discovery which is not cosmetic.

Anonymous said...

I cant see someone injecting chemicles into their face when the fake eyelash option is alot safer and is hard to distinguish from the real thing.