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New Cosmetic Has Dangerous Side-Effects -- Why Do People Use It?

Despite the Maybelline close-ups, Allergan's new drug Lattise is not mascara, but a glaucoma drug repurposed as an eyelash grower. And its side-effects are frightening.

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It is not the users' imaginations. According to patient information, Lattise "may cause darkening of the eyelid skin which may be reversible [nee irreversible]... increased brown pigmentation of the colored part of the eye which is likely to be permanent…[and] hair growth to occur in other areas of your skin that LATTISE frequently touches." 

Wait. There's more. "It is also possible for a difference in eyelash length, thickness, fullness, pigmentation, number of eyelash hairs, and/or direction of eyelash growth to occur between eyes," says the patient information. Elsewhere "periorbital fat atrophy" -- a hollowed eye look from deepened upper eyelid sulci and reduced lower eyelid fullness that screams for a cosmetic fix itself -- is attributed to Latisse. See you at the gala! 

Lattise users also risk eye redness and irritation, inflammation called uveitis, macular edema, cataract, reduced intraocular pressure -- the action that makes it a glaucoma drug -- and vision problems. Contact lenses and the applicator can become contaminated and prostaglandin analogs can reactivate herpes simplex keratitis. 

But it's Lattise's iridial pigmentation -- darkening of the iris -- that is the most ominous side effect: like long-term lash stimulation itself, the long-term effects of iridial pigmentation "are not known" says the prescribing information. ("Until we discover them on you," they might have added.) 

A 2001 study in Current Opinion in Ophthalmology says some patients with the condition "have an apparent thickening of the anterior border zone," and a 2001 paper in Investigative Opthalmology & Visual Science says "The end point of the increase in iridial pigmentation in affected patients is not known." Not too comforting when the pigment granules that are altered are known to be involved in the routing of optic nerves, protection from oxidative stress and protein degradation! 

Using New York-based Grey Advertising and Chandler Chicco Agency for advertising and public relations, Allergan made $79 million from Lattise the first year. It has "refreshed" its spokesperson image and replaced Shields with actress Claire Danes and predicts $140 million in 2010. 

But there are also questions. If Allergan didn't know about the lash stimulating side effect until it was discovered in its glaucoma drug trials -- hello? -- and  still doesn't know what causes it, what else doesn't Allergan know about the drug? After all, the bisphosphonate bone drugs caused bone growth too -- until they caused fractures and jaw bone death after people used them for a while. And 10 years ago, Vioxx, Baycol, Avandia and Plavix were the top-selling drugs. Are Lattise users guinea pigs? 

What will be the effects of discontinuing Lattise over time, a factor not commonly observed in glaucoma patients and disregarded to speed Lattise to market? 

Some predict Lattise will be repurposed as a baldness treatment that could dwarf the $130 million Allergan made from Botox last year. Other predict an obesity drug due to Lattise's fat-burning potential and with a lot of "product" necessary to cover thighs or saddle bags. 

But others condemn Lattise as an example of disease and vanity mongering at its worst. 

"This product campaign is just evil," writes an anonymous poster on, a site for drug salespeople. A major pharmaceutical company has "developed a prescription drug for people who are so upset by the paucity and/or hoariness of their eyelashes that they feel they need a DRUG to help them remedy the situation. And then I thought about my own eyelashes, which are fairly pale, and wondered whether I ought to rush myself to the nearest hospital." 

"Is it really worth risking your health by using a new drug near eyes when a wand of mascara can give one some pretty stunning eyelashes without all the risk?" asks columnist Julia Bodeeb. Doctors "are healers not beauty mavens." 

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