Allergan, the company that brought you Botox, gears up to tackle the double chin
Allergan, which gave us Botox, rolls out a drug for droopy jowls “Now we’re almost a one-stop shop. We own the face”
Two decades ago, Allergan turned the dermatology world on its head with its wrinkle-reducing Botox. Now the company hopes to do the same with Kybella, the first injectable treatment for what doctors call “submental fat”— what the rest of us think of as the goop inside double chins. “It’s a disruptive technology,” says Philippe Schaison, president of Allergan’s U.S. medical business. “It’s working great, and there’s nothing like it.”
Soon after the Food and Drug Administration approved the chin treatment in April 2015, Allergan bought its developer, Kythera Biopharmaceuticals, for $2.1 billion. Since then it’s trained 1,600 U.S. and Canadian doctors to administer the drug. In September it will launch a marketing blitz including TV spots to woo double-chin-conscious consumers.
The active ingredient in Kybella, deoxycholic acid, is a form of bile that destroys fat cells in the digestive tract. It does the same in the chin. The
treatment involves 20 to 30 tiny injections by a doctor, who must avoid the nerves and major blood vessels running under the jawline. Each session costs about $1,500, and most patients require two to four, says Dr. Anne Chapas, a dermatologist in New York. Her practice, Union Square Laser Dermatology, now performs about two Kybella treatments a week and expects to do more with the marketing push. “We were absolutely excited about it,” she says. “We know there’s huge potential.”
Kybella bolsters Allergan’s position in aesthetic treatments, an area Sanford C. Bernstein analysts forecast to grow 10 percent a year through 2020. Besides wrinkle-ending Botox, with $2 billion in 2015 sales, Allergan also sells dermal fillers like Voluma for dramatic cheekbones. Schaison already has a name for its needle-based trio of Botox, dermal fillers, and Kybella: the liquid face-lift. “Now we’re almost a one-stop shop,” he says. “We own the face.”
Schaison isn’t just on top of the business pushing no-cut facelifts; he’s also a client who got his Kybella treatment last June. “I was not bothered by my chin, but I wanted to experience it,” he says of the 10-minute procedure. “I absolutely loved the results.”
Kybella faces few rivals. The most popular alternative in the U.S., liposuction, can cost more than $6,000 and requires an incision, a few days in bandages, and occasional scarring. Unlike Botox, the effect of Kybella doesn’t wear off in a few months. That means the revenue stream is short, but the drug may have a broader appeal than many plastic surgery or dermatologic treatments. Allergan says Kybella in trials was effective for 80 percent of patients.
Elizabeth Krutoholow, a drug analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, says Kybella could log $500 million in annual sales. Allergan says men could account for 30 percent of patients vs. 10 percent of Botox users. That figure may go higher if the company is successful in tests of the drug against another enduring beauty scourge: love handles.