Allergan is currently seeking FDA approval to market the drug as an eyelash growth stimulator under the proposed brand name Latisse.
Panel approval is crucial
Gaining the support of the Dermatologic and Ophthalmic Drugs Advisory Committee on Friday was a crucial step on that road because the FDA rarely goes against the recommendations of the advisory panel.
Voting for the approval of Latisse, the committee said the data gathered from the glaucoma use of the drug demonstrated its power to make eyelashes longer and thicker.
In line with an FDA report published on Wednesday, panelists also concluded that there was a lack of serious side-effects brought on by the use of the drug in clinical trials.
However, the panel did call for more data on the use of Latisse among different ethnic groups and people under 18.
Allergan welcomed the conclusions and said that, if approved, Latisse would become the first, and only, FDA-approved pharmaceutical to enhance eyelash prominence.
Market potential of eyelash enhancer
With FDA-backing Latisse is expected to be a cash cow for Allergan; the company anticipates sales in excess of $500m a year to be the reward for its research and regulatory efforts.
The drug itself is based on bimatoprost, which is a synthetic prostaglandin analogue that is currently used to treat glaucoma.
It was during clinical studies of the glaucoma drug that Allergan discovered that some patients developed longer, darker and thicker eyelashes.
Protecting the discovery
Allergan has fought hard to protect bimatoprost and its analogues in a number of alleged patent infringement cases.
Last year for example, Allergan accused Jan Marini Skin Research of marketing an eyelash enhancing product based on bimatoprost. Jan Marini refuted the claims but nonetheless removed the product from the market.
Allergan said last week that it expects to launch Latisse in 2009 if the FDA gives the drug its seal of approval.