We’ve warned frequently about the eyelash-lengthening drug Latisse, and noted that the ads for the medication downplay the potential adverse effects. In exchange for longer eyelashes (at around $100 per month), you accept the risk of itchy red eyes, potentially permanent darkness around the eyelids, facial hair growth, permanently darkened irises, among other potential adverse effects. Now, according to the New York Times, many patients are taking on these risks without even consulting a doctor—and that can increase the likelihood that they occur.
According to the Times, "some salon workers dispense it to clients who go in for facials. Web sites in the United States and abroad sell it outright with few questions asked. Even doctors are getting into the act." The article describes physicians who prescribe the drug over the Internet after reviewing a brief online patient history, while some distributors may do even less than that. A spokesperson for the drug’s manufacturer, Allergan, told the newspaper that the company does not condone online sales of Latisse, but at least one of the doctors in the article said the company is aware of his online sales.
The Times profiles a patient from Minnesota, Cynthia O’Connor, who "got Latisse from the woman who does her facials," in the office of "a plastic surgeon who is listed as a Latisse provider on Allergan’s Web site." O’Connor told the times that she never met the doctor, and was not asked about her medical history.
After taking the drug, O’Connor noticed that a "very dark purply" discoloration appeared on her eyelids. "Ms. O’Connor was perplexed, but took it in stride because her new plum ‘eye shadow’ garnered compliments," says the Times. But then the discoloration appeared on her lower eyelids as well. She stopped taking the medication five months ago, but reports that some of the discoloration is still visible.
Some of our readers have reported similar reactions to Latisse—including darker eyelids, and irises— in our blog comments since we began reporting on Latisse. Others have reported on positive experiences with the drug, including at least one who reports using it to grow lashes after chemotherapy. To see more about what our readers have said, check out the comments to our posts from September 2009
, and June 2009
Bottom line: Know the risks of any drug before you use it. Those risks should be considered with extra care when the benefits are merely cosmetic. If you decide to use Latisse, make sure you discuss the risks—and how to use the drug—with your doctor. Some of our consultants have even recommended seeing an eye doctor before using Latisse (remember, this drug was first approved as a treatment for glaucoma). And remember, buying drugs online without a prescription can be risky, so make sure you go to a reputable pharmacist.
— Kevin McCarthy, associate editor