We work in an industry that seems to come alive during conferences. They are where professionals can come and learn about the latest trends, the newest devices, and the most ground-breaking research. Exhibitors and delegates alike use them as an opportunity to make new friends, catch-up with old acquaintances, and come together to push the industry and science forward. So there is no better place for me to go and wrestle precious minutes away from the schedules of the industry’s most influential figures and find out what they have planned for the coming year. During this year’s 3 day AMWC conference in Monaco, I managed to sit down with Olivia Brown, VP of Merz Aesthetics, and discuss the company’s focus on holistic medicine and what to expect from their products in the future.
From humble beginnings over 100 years ago, Merz Pharmaceuticals have grown from a small family business to a multinational corporation with over 2700 employees. While the aesthetics division was only formed in 2008, the company has a long history in the industry, creating the world‘s first anti-wrinkle treatment in 1953. Merz has continued to develop and manufacture its own brand of products to this day, including a range of aesthetic fillers, at their state of the art facilities. Products include the hyaluronic acid (HA) fillers Belotero® and Glytone®, a Calcium Hydroxylapatite filler (Radiesse®), a botulinum toxin product (IncobotulinumtoxinA), and the recently acquired Ultherapy®, a skin lifting and tightening device. Radiesse®, Belotero® and IncobotulinumtoxinA are approved by the FDA and are widely distributed around the world. In Europe, Radiesse® and the Belotero® and Glytone® ranges hold the CE Mark.
Radiesse was awarded FDA approval back in 2006 for subdermal implantation for the correction of moderate-to-severe facial wrinkles and folds. The award-winning filler works by instantly adding volume to the injected area while stimulating the body’s own collagen production. Results have been known to last for over a year and the FDA recently approved Radiesse with lidocaine. This new addition to the range is already available in the US.
Merz are now seeking FDA approval for the use of Radiesse in hand indications and they have every reason to believe they will get it as the panel for the FDA’s Medical Devices Advisory Committee voted in favour of recommending expanding the indication of Radiesse to include hand augmentation for volume correction back in February.
‘We want to own the hand indication with Radiesse. More and more patients are seeking hand-rejuvenation treatments and independent publications have already demonstrated that Radiesse is the optimal product. In some markets we already have a hands indication and are able to build on the experience gained so far when we launch it in the US,’ said Olivia.
‘I think the hands, after the face, are the second most important area to target because after you’ve looked at someone’s face you often look at their hands. If someone spends money on treatments on the face the hands will usually follow.
‘Radiesse has collagen stimulation properties, skin tightening properties, lifting and volumizing properties, and it doesn’t attract water. So you won’t get the swelling you will see with hyaluronic acid fillers. Radiesse also lasts a long time, it can last for anywhere between 1 and 2 years,’ she continued.
Holistic approaches to aesthetic medicine
For some time, physicians have been moving away from using techniques and treatments that only tackle single issues relating to the ageing face and have begun to take on a more holistic approach.
‘It’s a trend that’s driven by patient needs and demands,’ says Olivia. ‘You can see at conferences that physicians are now viewing the patient in three dimensions not just two dimensions. I would say in aesthetic medicine it is the physician that leads the trend rather than the industry. They are as much artists as they are medical doctors. They have an eye for detail whilst striving for perfection to ensure highest patient satisfaction levels. The core competence of Merz lies in R&D and science. We have the physicians and the patients at the centre of everything we do.’
Indeed, Merz see themselves as partners with the physician and they look to work with physicians and provide them with the tools and training they need to use Merz’s range of products to the best of their ability. They offer physicians continued support in the form of individual training sessions with Field Clinical Specialists and provide access to the Merz Scales, a comprehensive and validated rating and communication tool for evaluating aesthetic signs of ageing.
Olivia believes that working closer with the physician is not just a relationship that benefits the physician but that Merz actually benefit greatly from the input of the physician community.
‘We can’t live without physicians and their input so we work very closely with physicians from across the world. We conduct advisory boards, ask for their feedback, and have people we can contact to ask for their opinions. There’s no point in developing products if they are not going to be used in the market place. In turn, when we train physicians in injection skills we take the best of what is out there and try and come up with something that is comprehensive, of value, and replicable because it is important that others learn from the best out there.’
Physician knows best
I was interested in hearing more about Merz’s view of consumer education as there seems to be a split in the industry between companies either focusing their efforts on educating consumers and others that are spending the majority of their time and resources on the physicians. While companies should be commended for trying to get factual information out to the end-users, this split in focus throws up one very interesting question: who is responsible for deciding what product to use in aesthetic treatments?
‘Our primary focus is the physician. The physician is the gatekeeper who should be making the product decisions because only they know what is best suited for the patient. This is based on the need of the patient, facial anatomy, patient budget, and desired outcome,’ said Olivia.
‘I find the existence of Internet forums where patients discuss treatment products very interesting. On the one hand many patients are very well educated and have a very good idea of the products that are out there and why they should go for one product rather than another. On the other hand, I’m always hearing of cases where patients will go to a physician and say they want botulinum toxin injected in their lips. There’s always a danger of information availability and understanding this information and drawing the right conclusions as a patient.’
FDA approval for the use of Radiesse in hand augmentation is not the only big development Merz have in the works, Olivia tells me they are busy on a host of other new products and indications to be released in the near future.
‘We recently introduced the full range of Belotero with and without lidocaine, the crow’s feet indication for botulinum toxin, Radiesse with lidocaine in the US, and there is more to come. There is a constant pipeline of activity and new indications that we are pursuing,’ she said.
With all these new indications and products on the horizon, expect to hear more from Merz Aesthetics in the coming months.