December 27, 2008

New Eyelash Drug Approved

On Friday, Allergan Inc., the maker of Botox, said that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had approved its eyelash-thickening drug Latisse.

Latisse is designed to treat a condition known as hypotrichosis of the eyelashes, which makes a person not have enough eyelashes.

Bimatroprost is the active ingredient in Latisse, which is the same ingredient that is in Allergan's glaucoma treatment, Lumigan.  The patients taking Lumigan said that it made their eyelashes grow, leading Allergan to study it for the new use.

Latisse is to be taken once-daily by applying it to the base of the upper eyelash with a sterile, single-use-per-eye disposable applicator.  Once treatment is stopped, eyelashes will gradually return to where they were prior to treatment.

Allergan estimates a global peak in sales of Latisse solution could top $500 million a year.

An analyst at Leerink Swann, Gary Nachman, said that while approval was expected, "in this cautious environment, every approval through the FDA should be viewed positively."

This is the first prescription product for lengthening eyelashes, making sale predictions more difficult.

Larry Biegelsen, a Wachovia analyst, said that he agrees with the company's forecast of more than $500 million. However, "we think the initial uptake will be muted due to the economic situation."

Biegelsen says he predicts sales of $30 million in 2009, then growing to $310 million by 2012.

Nachman says he expects the drug to generate sales of $20 million in 2009, making it grown to $80 million by 2012.

"We believe the opportunity for Latisse could be much larger, but we still need to do more work on this largely unpioneered market," he said.

Latisse is a structural prostaglandin analog, a lipid compound derived from fatty acids designed to bind to prostaglandin receptors. These receptors are present in hair and are thought to be involved in the development and re-growth of the hair follicle.

Latisse's side effects might include eye redness, itchy eyes and a darkening of the eyelid skin.  It may also cause the colored part of the eye to become browner, a condition that might be permanent, according to Allergan.

The company expects to launch it's products in the first quarter of 2009.

Allergan's shares rose 1.1 percent at $36.85 on the New York Stock Exchange after the news.


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