The existence of the drug Latisse is clearly a harbinger of the end of modern civilization, in more ways than one, but it is also intensely fascinating and creepy. When I first heard of it, about a year ago, I really thought it was some sort of satirical article about the current status of big pharma and their slow but steady drift towards more (and more profitable) “lifestyle” medications. But no…it’s frickin’ real! Its original use was (is) to control glaucoma, but it was noticed that a side effect of such treatment was long and luxurious eyelashes. So, since about the beginning of 2009 it has been sold, without a prescription, specifically as an eyelash enhancement drug. A number of celebrities (including Claire Danes and Brooke Shields) have used it and allowed their lash growth to be documented (see their photos at www.latisse.com — I don’t really want to clickably link it here, so am just giving the address).
There are only a few minor problems with Latisse…
For example: Supplies of it were seized by the FDA (yes, “seized”) in 2007, before it was officially approved for use as an eyelash drug, because there was evidence that its use “may increase the risk of optic nerve damage,” and that “damage to the optic nerve may lead to decreased vision and possibly blindness.” But once Allergan (the company that sells it) figured out to tell people only to apply it to the upper lashes (never, never apply it to the lower lashes! This is spelled out repeatedly in their ads and information), then it was okay and the FDA approved it for eyelash poof-ing, and now you can buy it with confidence. Some people who are apparently annoyed at the cost of Latisse have figured out how to buy generic versions of the glaucoma drug (called bimatoprost and branded as Lumigan) and they just put that on their eyelashes.
So, from my perspective this is the weird thing: It’s all real! This is exactly the type of satirical drug I’d normally write a post or humor piece about. It is somewhat disorienting that it’s all out there in reality land already: FDA warnings and product seizure, celebrity endorsements (whose eyelash pictures look somewhat like their lashes have mutated, by the way), and already a generic black market after less than two years of being released.
And it goes on and on: Bimatoprost has been alleged to somehow reduce fat tissue around the eyes (yes, the dreaded eyefat). Also: bimatoprost is a prostaglandin, and what I do know about prostaglandins is that very tiny amounts of them can have huge effects on cell signaling pathways and gene expression — and guess what, the biological mechanisms are not yet really known for any of bimatoprost’s eyelash, glaucoma, or eyefat reducing capabilities. Also, also: (wow! this drug is amazing:) with extended use it apparently darkens your irises — this is great stuff (finally, relief for people with pale eyes)!
I love Latisse. If lifestyle drug development were a category of television show, Latisse would be one of my favorites. I hear that in the second season Claire Danes is being replaced by a blind monkey.