Is Latisse Worth the Risks?

Chicago Tribune Staff Writer

For about $100 a month, you could have the long, thick, dark eyelashes that you've always wanted.

But Latisse, a drug that can treat the new medical condition "inadequate eyelashes," also has a few unpleasant side effects. It may grow excessive hair in places you don't want (or expect). It could turn your blue eyes brown. It could darken your lower eyelids, giving you raccoon eyes. And it might make your eyes red and itchy.

When you stop taking this wonder pill, your eyelashes return to normal.

If you've lost your eyelashes from chemotherapy, Latisse may be a dream come true and well worth the risk of side effects.

But the commercials aimed at a general audience make the product seem more like makeup than a powerful prescription drug, Consumer Reports associate editor Jamie Kopf Hirsh wrote in Adwatch. In September, the Food and Drug Administration warned the manufacturer, Allergan, that promotional materials on the drug's website omitted or minimized certain risks.

"The Latisse commercial embodies pretty much everything that's wrong with direct-to-consumer advertising," Kopf Hirsh wrote.

Kopf Hirsh doesn't just mean using celebrities such as Brooke Shields to sell prescription drugs or manufacturing a need by "taking a legitimate medical condition and broadening its definition to the point where it could apply to almost anyone."

The commercials also downplay dangers while promoting the drugs as lifestyle enhancers.

"Fewer periods, better eyelashes, sex whenever you want it: No question these are desirable outcomes for many people," Kopf Hirsh wrote. "But unlike other consumer products, like refrigerators or toasters, drugs have side effects -- sometimes nasty ones."

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