The End of the Dreaded Double Chin?

Posted June 24, 2015

The dreaded “double chin” is a physical feature that plagues a good number of people around the world.  A double chin is when a person has a layer of fat around their neck that sags and hangs down.  The extra fat that is visible to others viewing the chin creates the appearance of a second chin on a person. A double chin can start to appear naturally thanks to changes in the weight, aging and family genetics of a person.  While diet and exercise can certainly help to improve the appearance of a double chin, a new treatment is now available to help remove the fat below the chin.

The Magic Word is Kybella

In April of this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Kybella to treat submental fat below the chin.  Kybella was created by Kythera Biopharmaceuticals, Inc., based in Westlake Village, California, and is made from deoxycholic acid. 

Deoxycholic acid is produced by the body and it is a chemical that helps absorb fats.  When injected into the tissue that is located below the chin, Kybella destroys the fat cells that lead to the appearance of a double chin.  Patients can receive up to 50 injections of Kybella (the trade name for ATX-101) in a single treatment.  It is recommended that patients receive only up to six single treatments that are administered no less than one month apart.  A Kybella treatment is a big change over the more traditional method of having liposuction surgery to remove the fat from the area below the chin.

Are There Any Side Effects?

While Kybella does work to destroy the fat cells in submental fat that is located below the chin, it can also destroy a variety of other cells if it is accidently injected into the skin.  “Treatment with Kybella should only be provided by a licensed health care professional, and patients should fully understand the risks associated with use of the drug before considering treatment,” according to Amy G. Egan, M.D., M.P.H., deputy director of the Office of Drug Evaluation III in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

Egan goes on to state that Kybella has only been approved for treating fat that occurs below the chin. This means that Kybella is not yet approved for treatment outside of this area.  Some of the possible side effects that patients might see include swelling, numbness, and difficulty swallowing and nerve injury in the jaw that can cause an uneven smile.  The jaw nerve injury can also cause a person to suffer some facial muscle weakness.  If Kybella is not injected correctly, it could destroy skin cells.

Already a Demand for the Treatment

While Kybella just became available to dermatologists and plastic surgeons on June 15th, there is already a growing demand for the treatment from patients.  “I’ve never seen a demand like this, except for Botox.” This is according to Derek Jones, a UCLA faculty dermatologist as well as a lead investigator in the clinical FDA trials of Kybella.  In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Jones stated “we have a waiting list of people who have been calling for months.”

It’s important to note that the drug is not available to any doctor that wants to perform the treatment on patients. It is only currently available to dermatologists and plastic surgeons that have completed the proper training in the use of Kybella at the Kythera offices in California.

Kybella is Already Big Business

Even though Kybella is still a relatively new procedure, it has already caught the attention of one of the major players in the pharmaceutical world.  It is reported to Allergen, the company that owns Botox, is getting ready to acquire Kythera. The reports about this deal place the asking price at around 2-billion dollars.

At first glance, this business deal looks like a pretty good investment on the part of Allergen given the increasing demand for the product.  Kybella is estimated to cost patients around $500-$600 per treatment.  When this price is compared to the higher cost for a liposuction proceudure, whoever owns Kybella stands to make a good yearly profit.

A Few Words of Caution about the Use of Kybella

It is important to remember that Kybella is only designed to be used in the submental area of the body.  It is not approved for use on other parts of the body.  Also, the FDA warns against using the treatment on patients who have had previous surgical work performed in the submental area.  Now that Kybella is FDA-approved there are some concerns about dermatologists and plastic surgeons using Kybella on other sections of the body (such as love handles).  It is important to exercise caution when making the final decision to use Kybella to melt away a double chin.



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