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FDA approves product to plump eyelashes

December 29, 2008 | 11:19 am

Latisse1A glaucoma drug that has been on the market for years has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for a new use: making eyelashes longer and fuller.

Allergan Inc. of Irvine announced Friday that the company had received the government's blessing to market Latisse for a condition called hypotrichosis of the eyelashes. Eyelash hypotrichosis is defined as not having enough eyelashes. While mascara has served mankind well for many years, Latisse is the first science-based product to enhance eyelashes and it stands to earn Allergan an estimated $500 million a year, according to the company. The drug is a once-daily prescription treatment applied to the upper eyelashes with a disposable applicator. Studies show lashes grow darker, fuller and longer in  eight to 16 weeks, however, continued use is necessary to maintain the benefits. Available by prescription only, Latisse will sell for about $120 for a one-month supply.

How Latisse works is a bit of a mystery. The active ingredient, bimatoprost, is a lipid that binds to prostaglandin receptors. These receptors are found in hair follicles. The phase-three study of Latisse revealed no serious side effects but darkening of the eyelid skin may occur as well as skin sensitivity and eye redness. During the FDA hearings on Latisse earlier this month, some doctors expressed worry that teen-agers might over-use the product and suffer unknown side effects. The safety of Latisse in pediatric patients has not been established.

Allergan will announce a time line for distribution of the product in January.

-- Shari Roan

Photo: Before and after photos of a patient using Latisse. Credit: Allergan Inc.