Glaucoma Drug Found to Grow Eyelashes

Drug company Allergan, known for its cosmetic fillers Botox and Juvedérm, is moving into the cosmetic market with a proposed topical application of bimatoprost. Although the company previously has used  the active ingredient to treat glaucoma and ocular hypertension, it discovered that through this treatment, the active can stimulate eyelash growth.

Some users of lash-enhancing products currently on the market have reported positive results, though bimatoprost may have some unsightly side effects. Bimatoprost is a prostamide that, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), was introduced as a topical treatment to treat increased eye pressure caused by open-angle glaucoma or ocular hypertension in adult patients. As reported on the company’s Web site, the material is a powder that is very soluble in ethyl alcohol and methyl alcohol and slightly soluble in water. Cosmetic companies including Jan Marini Skin Research, Athena Cosmetics Corp. and PhotoMedex Inc. have capitalized on bimatoprost’s ability to thicken and grow eyelashes and have created several nondrug cosmetics.

Jan Marini's Age Intervention Eyelash in particular was taken off the market when the FDA declared it a “potentially harmful ‘cosmetic’ eye product.” According to the FDA, the product may cause decreased vision in some users. Athena Cosmetics released Revitalash, a liquid eyeliner boasting the ability to enhance eyelash length and thickness within three to 10 weeks. The FDA declared Marini’s Age Intervention Eyelash to be “an unapproved and misbranded drug,” since the company used the active ingredient bimataprost’s proclaimed ability to augment eyelash growth to market it as a cosmetic product.

Allergan’s bimatoprost treatment for glaucoma was approved by the FDA in 2001. The company recently announced plans to approach the FDA with a new drug application later this year to market its patented bimatoprost in an eyelash-enhancing product.

Although the material may stimulate eyelash growth, side effects have been found with its use, including: optic nerve damage, blurred vision, eyelid redness, permanent darkening of eyelashes, eye discomfort, permanent darkening of the iris to brown (heterochromia), a temporary burning sensation during use, thickening of the eyelashes and severe depression with suicidal ideation.

Currently, bimatoprost is still in the drug application stage toward becoming a cosmetic. In the future, though, its cosmetic benefits may make it useful as a mass-market cosmetic product. Before that happens, however, its safety must be proven.

-Emily Keats, C&T magazine guest author


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