OTCs, cosmeceuticals going through intensive studies

January 1, 2008

Thanti-aging products isn't so much the new ones that are coming into the market, but the trend toward rigorous e real nscientific testing of them - a development stage that was conspicuously lacking in the not-so-distant past.ews in the field of OTC and cosmeceutical

"Many OTC products suit patients, especially from a cost point of view," says Joel Schlessinger, M.D., director of Skin Specialists P.C., Omaha, Neb., and immediate past president of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology & Aesthetic Surgery.

"What's amazing about OTC anti-aging products and, to some extent, cosmeceuticals - those products available only through a doctor - is that there hasn't been a whole lot of really rigorous testing done on them. OTC's, especially, have been very minimally tested - and those test results often are done by the companies, and the results say what the companies want them to say. What we've tended to do is recommend products that we know have had at least some relatively intensive studies done."

"Prevage by Allergan was the first that was really tested well, about three years ago," he says. "Its antioxidant capabilities were tested extensively, and this kind of raised the bar for competitors to be more conscientious about testing their products more carefully."

OTC challenges

Dr. Schlessinger says the biggest challenges with OTC anti-aging products has been dealing with patients who, having tried an OTC, come in and claim that it doesn't work for them - and say they are unwilling to try other products that he knows will work for their skin problem. Also, he says, there has been a significant amount of "unadulterated misinformation" about OTCs that has been foisted on the public.

"It's always been my feeling that if properly promoted, cosmeceuticals and some OTC products, can be very beneficial to the patient," he says. "What we try to do is craft a regimen for patients that will work well for them, which is far preferable to them going to a drug store or cosmetics counter and having a clerk do it.

"Patients will ask about sunscreens, for example, but unfortunately many OTC sunscreens are woefully inadequate compared with the cosmeceutical products we can offer," he says. "We can tailor these sunscreens to the patient's specific skin type. The good news is that word is gradually getting out that skin isn't just 'dry, oily or normal' - there are many, many different types of skin, and patients need to be educated about this fact."

Product sophistication

According to Dr. Schlessinger, there are indications that OTC and cosmeceutical formulations have become increasingly sophisticated - sometimes to the point that they transcend the OTC/cosmeceutical class.

"Many cosmeceuticals are becoming tantalizingly close to acting like a drug," he says. "Some of these have gone to a pharmaceutical grade."

As examples of those upgraded cosmeceuticals, Dr. Schlessinger cites Mimyx (Stiefel Laboratories), a non-steroid, water-based cream for managing symptoms of atopic dermatitis; Biafine (OrthoNeutrogena), which promotes macrophage recruitment to help repair skin damage in a wide range of indications; and Eletone (Ferndale), a moisturizing emollient used in the treatment of minor skin irritations.

The trend toward more extensive testing will be a big help in educating the public - and dermatologists - as to what OTC and cosmeceutical anti-aging products are most appropriate and effective.

"Study results for ELASTIderm have been very exciting, especially in correcting wrinkles around and under the eyes," Dr. Schlessinger says.