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Allergan's proposed new product for stimulating natural growth in eyelashes may unleash a vibrant new cosmetic drug niche market.
Allergan secured those patents when it was discovered that glaucoma patients treated with bimatoprost experienced significant eyelash growth.
"It was an accidental finding - some patients' eyelashes got so long they were brushing against their eyeglass lenses," says William Philip Werschler, M.D., assistant clinical professor of medicine and dermatology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Spokane, Wash.
Dr. Werschler, who served as an investigator in Allergan's clinical trials, tells Dermatology Times that the results of his trial were promising for eyelash-growth indications - and that they showed none of the side effects associated with the drug's use in treating glaucoma, such as altered pigmentation of eyelid skin, or even eye color.
"One of the side effects of bimatoprost in glaucoma indications is that it can affect the color of the iris, especially in hazel eyes, making them darker," he says. "I observed no such side effect in trials for eyelash-growth indications."
David J. Goldberg, M.D., director of Skin Laser & Surgery Specialists of New York/New Jersey and clinical professor of dermatology at New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine, adds that when used for treating glaucoma, prostoglandins such as bimatoprost also have an occasional tendency to cause redness in the eyes.
"But problems such as darkened pigmentation and eye redness are not considered serious," he says.
Heather Katt, Allergan's senior manager for corporate communications, confirms bimatoprost's ability to stimulate eyelash growth.
"In the clinical program, eyelash growth was assessed by looking at changes in the length, darkness and thickness of eyelashes - at one month post-treatment, we observed discernible differences in these areas," she says. "Also, 80 percent of patients participating in the clinical program observed eyelash growth within three to four months of treatment."
Results under wraps
Ms. Katt says other official trial results are unavailable for now.
"For proprietary reasons, until published, we are not providing any more detail about the clinical program results," Ms. Katt says.
"The clinical program has now been concluded, and Allergan plans to submit and present data, post-submission of our FDA filing, within the next 12 months," she says.
Physicians and industry observers appear unanimous in their opinion that Allergan's as-yet-unnamed eyelash-growth drug will be a major success, because there's huge demand for eyelash-enhancement products.
Ms. Katt says that the annual mascara market in the United States and worldwide is estimated at $1.1 billion and $3.7 billion, respectively - and adds that Allergan's estimate for global peak sales of its bimatoprost eyelash-growth drug will exceed $500 million per year.