Aesthetics opportunities generate growth for ophthalmic industry
Ophthalmic companies offer cosmetic products that address ophthalmologists’ growing interest in aesthetics.
As the aesthetics market grows in several medical specialties, including ophthalmology, members of the ophthalmic industry are responding by expanding their offerings in this area.
Ocular Surgery News spoke to representatives at two ophthalmic companies that are participating in the aesthetics market, Allergan and Iridex, about their current status and future plans.
Allergan is currently the largest medical aesthetics company in both the United States and Europe, according to Julian Gangolli, Allergan’s corporate vice president and president for North America, largely due to its flagship aesthetics product, Botox (botulinum toxin type A). The company also more recently has added the facial filler Juvéderm (hyaluronic acid) to its product line through the acquisition of Inamed. Juvéderm was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June.
Iridex entered the cosmetic lasers market about 10 years ago and recently acquired Laserscope to expand its offerings, according to Barry Caldwell, president and chief executive officer of Iridex.
Other companies are also expanding their aesthetics product lines. Angiotech, a specialty pharmaceutical company, last year acquired the Contour Threads product line in the acquisition of its wholly owned subsidiary Surgical Specialties. The barbed sutures, which are used in aesthetic as well as plastic and reconstructive surgical procedures, last year received the CE Mark and are now being marketed in Europe and the United States.
A growing market
Aesthetics products for both pharmaceutical and laser treatments have slowly entered the ophthalmic market since the 1990s.
In the late ‘80s, Jean D. Carruthers, MD, FRCS(C), FRC(OPHTH), an ophthalmologist, and her dermatologist husband Alistair Carruthers, MD, observed that botulinum toxin A — at that time marketed by Allergan as Oculinum — could be used not only to treat blepharospasm but also to soften glabellar lines. When the FDA approved Botox Cosmetic for that indication in 2002, Allergan entered into the medical aesthetic arena.
Following on the success of Botox, Mr. Gangolli said, Allergan has now acquired Inamed and released Juvéderm to compete against Restylane (hyaluronic acid, Medicis), which has been on the U.S. market since its FDA approval in 2003.
“The growth we’re seeing in the aesthetics market is being driven not only by the aging of the baby boom generation, but also by the growing demand among all age groups for safe and effective approaches to maintaining a healthy and youthful appearance and self-image,” he said.
Allergan recently commissioned an international survey whose results support that claim, Mr. Gangolli said. Examining the beauty and grooming habits of 10,000 women and men, the survey found that eight out of 10 women across the U.S. and Europe report that they do not necessarily want to look younger. Instead, he said, they want to look naturally good for their age and have their face reflect their personality, expressions and emotional well-being.
“This reinforces a new and important trend in the perception of beauty and suggests that the quest for wrinkle-free perfection is coming to an end,” Mr. Gangolli said. Surgical and nonsurgical aesthetic procedures have grown an average of 41% over the past 2 years, he added.
“The increasing acceptance of aesthetic procedures is, in many ways, a direct consequence of how far new techniques in clinical practice and scientific advances have taken us in our ability to provide an increasing range of — and accessibility to — safe and effective treatments, from less invasive surgical procedures and techniques to next-generation innovations in dermal fillers,” Mr. Gangolli said. “While medical aesthetics is among the fastest growing sectors in the health care arena, it is still a largely untapped market with enormous growth potential. For example, the number of dermal filler procedures performed in the U.S. is still just half the number recorded in Europe.”
Mr. Gangolli attributed that to the limited choice until recently in collagen and hyaluronic acid dermal filler products.
Mr. Caldwell of Iridex said the company was founded about 18 years ago and became well established among retinal specialists with its green and infrared lasers. In the mid-1990s, the company realized that its lasers used some of the same wavelengths being utilized in other medical specialties, including the aesthetics field.
“We began basically taking the same laser design that we had in ophthalmology and repurposing it to aesthetics,” Mr. Caldwell said. “With more products from which to spread overhead and to build infrastructure, it has been very helpful over the years, particularly since the competency in manufacturing and design are virtually the same between the ophthalmology and aesthetics technologies. It’s been basically a sharing of resources to accomplish additional revenues for the company.”
Mr. Caldwell said the company made the decision to expand, through its purchase of Laserscope, because its previous product offerings treated only about 30% of aesthetic conditions.
“We couldn’t go after deep veins. We didn’t have a hair-removal product. We didn’t have a skin-tightening product,” he explained. “With the acquisition of the Laserscope aesthetics business, we’ve got a broad range of products to offer across all the laser cosmetic procedures that are performed today. The Gemini multi-application laser system is FDA approved for performing 93% of the most common aesthetics procedures.”
While neither executive had specific numbers on the growth of aesthetics in ophthalmology, they said they have observed growing interest in the field.
“There is plenty of room for growth in the use of facial aesthetic products in the ophthalmology category, and attendance at [the oculoplastics session during] the Hawaiian Eye 2007 Subspecialty Saturday demonstrated the keen interest ophthalmologists have in this growing area,” Mr. Gangolli said. “The presenting faculty addressed a packed house of ophthalmologists.”
Mr. Caldwell said more and more ophthalmologists, although still relatively small in number, are beginning to realize the opportunities available in the aesthetic realm.
“In 2006, we sold three aesthetics lasers to ophthalmologists,” he said. “These were ophthalmologists who have refractive practices.”
He suggested that ophthalmologists who are already focusing on refractive surgery can expand into aesthetics relatively easily. (See sidebar)
“As these cosmetic or aesthetic procedures have evolved, it’s becoming easier for any specialty to get into it, and an ophthalmologist is a trusted physician and he’s working on the face,” Mr. Caldwell said. “There are certainly opportunities for them to add aesthetic procedures to their practice, and it’s virtually all elective.”
He added that, in the future, Iridex will be considering adding other light-based technologies — not necessarily lasers — with applications in ophthalmology or aesthetics.
Mr. Gangolli said Allergan will continue to consider opportunities that offer high market growth potential and innovation in line with the company’s strategic goals and will continue to seek partnerships in ophthalmology, medical aesthetics and neurosciences, as well as other emerging markets.
For more information:
- Julian Gangolli, the corporate vice president of Allergan and president of Allergan North America, can be reached at 2525 Dupont Drive, Irvine, CA 92612-1599; 714-246-5108; fax: 714-246-5888; e-mail: Gangolli_Julian@allergan.com.
- Barry Caldwell, the president and chief executive officer of Iridex Corporation, can be reached at 1212 Terra Bella Ave., Mountain View, CA 94043; 650-940-4700; fax: 650-940-4710; e-mail: BCaldwell@iridex.com.
- Katrina Altersitz is an OSN Staff Writer who covers all aspects of ophthalmology.
Incorporating aesthetics requires skill, dedication