We’re accustomed to seeing celebrities pushing prescription drugs in TV ads, so I was not surprised when I saw that Brooke Shields had signed on as spokeswoman for the new $120-a-month eyelash-lengthening drug Latisse (bimatoprost). But it did strike me as surprising that Shields would have the condition hypotrichosis, for which the FDA approved the drug. Allergan, the maker of Latisse defines the condition as "inadequate or not enough lashes."
I suppose adequacy is in the eye of the beholder to some degree. These promotional before and after pictures suggest that Shields’ lashes did get longer. But were they really “inadequate” to begin with? That’s an important question because the drug has some serious risks that should be considered. Latisse’s benefits are strictly cosmetic, the side effects might not be.
Our consultants are concerned not just about the common side effects of red and itchy eyes, or the potential for adverse cosmetic outcomes. Note that the ad, which has been posted online by Sona Medspa, downplays the risk of "eyelid skin darkening" by saying that this effect “may be reversible.” I guess that means it may also be irreversible, no? Further the ad describes a potential for “increased brown iris pigmentation.” But that suggests that the irises were brown to begin with, doesn’t it? The fact is that, while rare, bimatoprost has been known to darken even blue and green eyes to a permanent dark brown.
In addtion, our consultants worried that people who develop glaucoma or other eye problems may not realize they have the condition if they are using Latisse, potentially delaying necessary treatment. The Latisse ad cautions that anyone using eye-pressure-lowering drugs, or with a history of eye-pressure should use the drug under "close doctor care." But our consultants urge more caution. One expert said she’d require patients to undergo a full eye exam before prescribing Latisse. That’s not a bad idea for anyone considering using the drug, and patients who do use it should follow up with an annual eye exam to detect any changes in the eye.
—Kevin McCarthy, associate editor
For more on the pros and cons of Latisse, read our previous blog.