Allergan is set to launch its fat reduction treatment Belkyra in the UK. Here, we explore its pros and cons for Dermatological and Surgical providers in Harley Street and across the United Kingdom.
Having received marketing authorisation in Sweden in October 2016, Kybella is poised for a UK launch. It’ll be known by the brand name Belkyra here, and is expected to be released towards the beginning of 2018.
For those of you unfamiliar with the American aesthetic treatment, Kybella is an FDA-approved method of fat reduction in the submental region (under the chin). Distinguished by its ability to safely, non-invasively dissolve small quantities of fat, Kybella is a preparation of deoxycholic acid which is administered through a series of injections (generally over six separate sessions, spaced one month apart). The substance liquefies fat cells in the targeted area, which are then released and eliminated permanently by the body’s lymphatic system. Originally developed by Kythera, the product was acquired by Allergan (who you may recognise as the manufacturer of Revere’s Juvederm fillers, and the owner of CoolSculpting) in 2015, in a transaction rumoured to be worth around $2.1 billion.
Allergan are now set to launch the product in the UK – but how will it fare?
The Pros and Cons of Belkyra
If Belkyra is to enjoy success in the British marketplace, it’ll have a few obstacles to overcome, which Kybella similarly struggles with stateside. First up is expense – Kybella is burdened with a price tag that is prohibitively expensive for many, which is problematic in such a competitive marketplace. Many Americans choose to stick with double chin liposuction rather than pay the high price of Kybella – an issue which is compounded by Kybella’s need for repeat treatments.
Liposuction is a single-session treatment which requires some sedation and a local anaesthetic. As a surgical procedure, it carries associated risks (infection, scarring, nerve damage and anaesthesia risks, to name a few), with downtime of around a week and swelling and bruising common afterwards. While Kybella doesn’t require surgery, it similarly causes bruising, swelling and discomfort for around 5 days after the treatment – so the need for repeated treatments (and repeat episodes of downtime) has also proved off-putting for the American audience, especially at such a contentious price point.
Belkyra will also need to compete with Allergan-owned CoolSculpting – since the release of the CoolSculpting Mini applicator, the popular technology is able to effectively treat excess fat beneath the chin. Belkyra’s FDA approval is one of its biggest selling points, but CoolSculpting, too, benefits from FDA approval. CoolSculpting works by freezing fat cells, causing them to break down, which may make it more appealing for patients who prefer to avoid needles. It’s also virtually pain-free, with minimal downtime.
This isn’t to say that Belkyra doesn’t have its upsides. At Revere Clinics, we’ve been working with deoxcholic acid, the active ingredient in Belkyra, with great success for many years. In fact, I pioneered the use of Aqualyx (a preparation of deoxycholic acid) in facial fat removal. It’s the core component of our famous Fat Loss Facelift, a revolutionary procedure which removes fat from the lower cheeks, chin, jowls and jawline to lift and tighten the face. It may be that Allergan will need to develop a similar application for Belkyra to ensure the product is a real success, representing better value (and a more unique benefit) to the consumer. However, this means applying the product above the neck, and Belkyra is currently only FDA-approved beneath the chin. The regulatory status of Aqualyx as a Medical Device is a contentious issue, and will inevitably give the Golliath Allergan significant leverage and competitive advantage over the Italian niche product. The deep pockets at Allergan possess will also ensure that the licences and indications for the drug will be expanded significantly over the coming years.
I’ve been working with Aqualyx for four years now, and I’m absolutely confident in its safety, efficacy and outstanding results. Only time and practice will tell if subtle differences in the concentration and formula of Belkyra will offer my patients additional benefits. If Belkyra proves itself exceptional, I’ll certainly use it at Revere. With such extensive experience with Aqualyx already, should we adopt Belkyra, we’ll be able to ensure our patients benefit from, as long as its an evolutionary step forward in safety and efficacy – so watch this space!