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So Far, Allergan's Baldness Cure Is Better at Growing Its Stock Than Hair

Allergan (AGN) dropped a juicy tidbit into its Q2 2010 earnings call the other day: Its experimental baldness cure is now a fully funded R&D program scheduled to go into its first clinical trials next year. The drug is already on the market as Latisse for eyelash growth, and one of its side effects is that it may cause hair to sprout beyond your eyelashes if you're not careful using it. Since I first noted that Allergan had a speculative baldness cure in the pipeline last year, Allergan has mentioned it at least twice publicly, keeping it in the spotlight.

Whether Latisse can cure baldness is actually highly speculative. Eyelashes, eyebrows and scalp hair are all completely different. Here's what the company told Wall Street:

David Maris - Credit Agricole Securities (USA) Inc.: And my second question's on the pipeline. One, I don't really care about, but can you tell us about LUMIGAN and hair growth, where that is?

R&D chief Scott Whitcup: So with LUMIGAN and hair growth, that's a fully funded program, but still, the formulation for hair growth on the scalp is very different than a formulation to get it into eyelid skin. So we're going through the formulations. We should have those ticked as our first milestone and then hope to get into patients some time next year with our initial study.

Allergan brass also mentioned the hair loss program in its Q4 2009 call, and at a press conference where the company unveiled Claire Danes as a spokesperson. There's little hard evidence that Latisse or its analogs can grow head hair beyond this study in just eight monkeys:
Perhaps the most relevant study on the effect of latanoprost on scalp hair growth is the one by Uno et al. who used a macaque model of androgenetic alopecia. The results of this well-controlled study (8 monkeys, 4 treated and 4 serving as controls) showed that treatment with 50 mcg/ml latanoprost daily over 5 months caused minimal hair growth, whereas 500 mcg/ml daily over 3 months induced moderate-to-marked hair regrowth.
Arguably, the drug may be better at growing Allergan's stock price than it is at growing new hair. AGN has risen from $54.80 to $63.72 since it first discussed Latisse as a baldness cure.

Top image by Flickr user Mike Burns, CC.