The aesthetic device markets are characterized by rapid change in order to keep up with shifting patient demands. Currently, aesthetic treatments are seeing increased interest from emerging patient groups, such as younger patient pools and male patients, which are forcefully driving growth in these markets. Fat reduction and filler treatments are two areas that are generating significant patient demand, and represent one current disruptive force in the current aesthetics market landscape.

What should we expect to see in 2017?

Fat grafting has existed for over a decade, but has only gained popularity in recent years with increased evidence of safety and effectiveness. According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), more than 900,000 fat graft procedures were done in 2015. The procedure involves the surgical removal and reprocessing of fat from unwanted regions of the body before being injected into the desired area. The natural properties of fat, which minimize risks of side effects known to synthetic materials such as tissue rejection and allergic reactions, are driving its popularity in aesthetic procedures. In addition, fat cells have been found to contain adipose-derived stem cells which have great promise in the emerging field of regenerative medicine. Despite the numerous advantages of fat grafting, harvesting fat from the body can be a timely and painful experience for patients. While most fat injection procedures are autologous in nature, Biologica Technologies has launched the first off-the-shelf fat filler, Allofill, which is made from donated human adipose tissue. This product reduces treatment-associated pain and treatment length, but due to its relatively recent entry into the market, its success in the aesthetics markets is yet to be determined.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, body contouring and fat reduction are also garnering considerable interest in the market. Cryolipolysis, or fat freezing, was a trending procedure in 2016 and will continue to be so in 2017.  Recent focus, however, has been on the treatment of submental fat, popularly known as double chin removal. A study conducted by the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery found that over 67% of people are bothered by fat under their chins. Unlike other regions of fat, submental fat is largely influenced by genetics, as opposed to factors such as diet and lifestyle, which makes it the perfect candidate for aesthetic intervention.

Aesthetic manufacturers have responded to this demand accordingly; for example, in mid-2015, the FDA approved Allergan’s injectable, Kybella. This is the first injectable approved for the treatment of submental fat, and functions to dissolve the fat beneath the chin. Submental fat injections offer a minimally invasive option for removing fat under the chin, compared to more invasive options such as liposuction and surgery. Although energy devices are also a minimally invasive alternative to treat submental fat, energy devices are indicated for skin tightening more often than fat reduction, and these devices often too large to be used effectively on the chin. Allergan’s CEO Brent Sanders believes Kybella has the potential to develop a market as large as the company’s leading product, Botox. Kybella generated sales of close to $52million in the first three quarters of 2016. While this still lags far behind Botox, Kybella’s expansion into unpenetrated geographies as well as expanding approvals for new treatment areas, such as bra-line fat, should help increase its sales.

What does this mean for the industry?

Fat grafts and submental fat injections will offer both advantages and challenges to industry.  On the positive side, these procedures will provide new opportunities for combination treatments, which can help enhance treatment outcomes. For example, there has been particular interest in combining fat grafts with Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP)—plasma derived from a patient’s blood and injected into the skin to help rejuvenate the skin—to enhance fat graft survival. Additionally, submental fat injections have created a broad appeal among a variety of new patient groups, including an increasing number of male patients, which may encourage these patient groups to seek additional aesthetics procedures.

These procedures will also drive innovation and competition in the market, encouraging new and existing manufacturers to improve current treatment options. For example, off-the-shelf fat injectables are a promising new option because they negate the need of surgery, and the associated pain, cost and recovery time. With the growing interest in fat grafting, manufacturers should therefore invest in the production of ready to use autologous fat products that are able to effectively replace volume loss and promote fat cell growth in the face. Additionally, these products should be investigated for use on multiple regions of the body in order to capitalize on the full potential of the market.

In terms of challenges, new products and treatments always mean that competitors need to continue to expand their product lines to include the latest treatments offered by the companies that are first-to-market. For example, at present Kybella and Allofill are the only available products for submental fat reduction and facial fat filler procedures respectively. New competitive products are therefore likely to soon emerge – either organically or through acquisitions and partnerships - and their success will be determined by both the clinical efficacy and marketing behind their products.

On a whole, as customers continue to demand more natural, effective, and more comfortable treatments, disruptive products will continue to be sought after as a way to attract and maintain customer interest in the lucrative aesthetics market.

Follow Benazir Premji @BenazirDRG for more insights into the Aesthetics markets.

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