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General News    H3'ed 4/27/10

Better Lashes Through Chemistry: New Mascara is a Drug

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Message Martha Rosenberg
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Not enough lashes? GROW THEM! exhorts a billboard with a life size likeness of Brooke Shields at a Chicago shopping mall. Grow longer, fuller, darker lashes says a TV ad for the same product showing Brooke enchanting everyone at a party with new flutter appeal.

But despite the Maybelline close-ups, lash applicator and vanity sell, Allergan's new drug Lattise is not mascara--but a glaucoma drug repurposed as an eyelash grower.

Like Viagra, intended as a blood pressure medication until a certain side effect surfaced, Retin-A which treated acne before wrinkles and Botox, first used for eye spasms, the ingredient in Allergan's Lumigan, bimatoprost, turned out to stimulate eyelash growth. Older glaucoma drugs like latanoprost and travoprost--called prostaglandin analogs because they bind to prostaglandins or lipids--also stimulated lashes but not as much.

A lash stimulator also fit well into Allergan's portfolio as the Irvine, CA-based eyecare company that launched Botox in 2002 and now markets the facial filler Juvederm, breast aesthetics and balloon and banding devices for obesity "interventions."

Because Lattise was approved by the FDA for hypotrichosis--inadequate hair growth-- many expected its marketing campaign to "sell" hypotrichosis like Restless Legs Syndrome or other diseases du jour when it began last year. Others thought its natural audience would be the Botox and Restasis (Allergan's dry eye drug) set: aging boomers with thinning or even chemoed lashes.

Wrong. Lattise was pitched as a cosmetic must-have like lip gloss with actress Brooke Shields serving as its "compensated spokesperson and actual user" and teens and twentysomethings became its biggest fans. In fact, over the counter products with bimatoprost called MassiveLash, DermaLash, Luxette, Age Intervention and MD Lash Factor actually preceded Lattise to market--and their manufacturers were sued by Allergan in 2007 for patent infringement. At least ten remain on the market, their ingredients unclear, and users compare them to Lattise on beauty Web sites.

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by (more...)

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