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Botox Profits Rise: In Spite of or Because of the Dysport Competition?

Botox numbers rise despite a down economy and new competition. AHB wonders, did the factors everyone expected to hurt the company actually help?

In the last financial quarter, Allergan (AGN), the pharmaceutical company that manufactures BOTOX, reported a third quarter profit increase of 8.3%, even after the arrival of Dysport, the new competition. According to the Wall Street Journal, Botox sales rose 5.8% alone (excluding currency adjustments.) Did Allergan's profit rise in spite of Dysport, or because of it?

Both products work in the same manner. They are injected into key wrinkle causing muscles in the face and those muscles are then paralyzed. Once the muscle can't move, the wrinkle goes away. Injections must be repeated as the paralytic agent, botulinum toxin, wears off after several months. When Dysport arrived, it was the first real competition for Botox. There have been fillers available such as Juvederm and Restylane but they work differently than Botox and therefore have different results.

injecting the market

Dysport is made by Ipsen, a British company, and distributed by Medicis (MRX) for aesthetic use in the US. It works pretty much the same as Botox, though some say it's even better. Botox takes a few days to take effect while Dysport may start as early as a few hours after injection. Dr. Jeffrey Donaldson says "Some patients notice that it takes effect faster and lasts longer. They choose Dysport because it will work more quickly before a party or social event." There are no official numbers that say which of the products last longer, but several patients report that Dysport lasts about six months - though the FDA has only approved that they advertise it lasting about 4 months. The speculation is that if it lasts longer and fewer follow up visits are needed, the cost goes down over the long term.

So why then has Botox not only remained popular but even grown in popularity, so much so that its manufacturer reports a huge profit gain? The release of Dysport has given Botox more publicity than it's received in years. No one talks about Dysport without referencing Botox.

When Botox first came out and people heard that the basic premise is to inject the world's strongest toxin into your face, on purpose, to paralyze muscles, because it'll make you prettier, the idea naturally met with some resistance. However, after 15 years, Botox is a well established, recognized brand that is respected. When used correctly, it's proven itself to be safe and without any long-term side effects.

Another angle on Botox's recent success is that the FDA approval of Dysport signals to more people that the injections are safe. Dysport's introduction has actually broadened the neurotoxin market rather than stealing some of Botox's pie, boosting sales for both. The more people feel comfortable with one, the more accepting they are with the other.

Dr. Jeffrey Adelglass, a dermatologist in Plano Texas, who also serves on the National Education Committee for Allergan, the maker of BOTOX, stated "The entry of Dysport has expanded the entire aesthetics market. Having two FDA approved products has made more patients then ever aware of the safety and efficacy of these injections." In addition, Dr. Adelglass likes having the two different alternatives because some applications seem to work better with one product verses the other.

Dr. Thomas Young of Young Medical Spa echoed that claim and says that patients and doctors both enjoy having choices in their wrinkle fighters. Dr. Young also says that he doesn't get calls for Dysport but that he offers it as an alternative to his patients that are not pleased with the results of Botox.

Both Dr. Adelglass and Dr. Young say that it is not their intention to sell one product over the other, rather to provide the product best suited to their patient's needs.

Water cooler talk and web chatter consistently talk about Dysport as competition for Botox or the new Botox or Botox's European cousin. Aesthetic doctors and medical spas advertise the new wrinkle treatment that's just like Botox but a little better. Many press releases and Dysport articles in the last 6 months only reference Botox in the title, "New BOTOX competitor enters market." Many patients however, don't want to go with what's new - they want what they know, and the name they know is Botox. Dysport, or "New Botox" may get them in the door, but they buy the brand name they've heard about for 15 years.

At AmericanHealthandBeauty.com, we've seen an increase in traffic for Dysport, however the number of patients inquiring to doctors who offer it hasn't increased much at all. Conversely, the traffic for Botox has been been very consistent, but the number of patient inquiries has increased month over month. AHB has posted over 40 articles about Dysport and have mentioned Botox in all of them, even including it in the title in some cases. Much like trying to describe Pepsi to someone who's only ever had Coke, it's difficult to get the point across without mentioning the competition.

With the economy down, many people expected the numbers of patients getting 'frivolous' cosmetic treatments to drop incredibly as the nation tightens its belt. Non-surgical procedures have surprisingly remained popular. People not only still want to look good, but they need to. Many middle aged executives feel the need to look young and energetic when competing with the fresh faced college graduates just coming into the job market. While a full facelift might be too much for their budget, spending a few hundred on Botox may not be. If in the end it helps to net a job, then it was certainly worth it.

By Sara Jordan, Associate Editor