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Drugs to Make You Look Beautiful -- But at What Price?
Date:11/5/2011

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Nov. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Skimpy eyelashes, balding pates and wrinkles aren't diseases, but they may as well be in a society that "medicalizes" normal conditions by producing drugs not to cure or heal, but to enhance, some health experts contend.

So the news that a cosmetic company is developing a pill to prevent hair from graying will offer Americans more options than ever to not only turn back the clock, but -- as experts note -- to eliminate common differences that make individuals distinct.

The booming worldwide "lifestyle" drug market -- which was estimated to surpass $29 billion in 2007 -- pits problems of a social or cosmetic nature against conditions threatening physical health or well-being. But all drugs in the United States must undergo the same rigorous approval process whether they are designated for disease prevention or treatment or to alter people's looks or behavior. This distinction causes some to question if vanity should assume equal importance pharmaceutically to what some consider more authentic medical conditions.

"The debate is often framed here between treatment and enhancement," said Dr. Joel Lexchin, a professor of health policy and management at York University in Toronto. "They're taking what is traditionally considered normal human variation and trying to homogenize the way people look. On an individual level, people can do probably whatever they want, but on a collective level, we have to think about whether producing drugs that enhance people is really the best use of our resources."

The anti-gray hair pill under development would join several other prescription-strength pills, potions or injections in the past two decades that concentrate solely on "fixing" conditions that -- depending on perspective -- can be perceived as a bane or simply a nuisance.

Propecia (finasteride), which began as a stronger-dose drug to treat en
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