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A new wrinkle in anti-aging products

Some popular options haven't been approved for use in U.S.

Dr. Brian Maloney performs a cosmetic procedure on Robin Allman. Maloney cautions against using products that haven't received FDA approval.
Dr. Brian Maloney performs a cosmetic procedure on Robin Allman. Maloney cautions against using products that haven't received FDA approval.

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Cosmetic fillers that fill in lines in the face are gaining popularity as an alternative to plastic surgery. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports. (February 27)
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  • Nearly 8.5 million cosmetic procedures were performed in 2001.
  • From 1997 to 2001, there was a 304 percent increase in the number of cosmetic procedures.
  • People ages 35-50 had 44 percent of the procedures.
  • Filler procedures cost between $500 and $1,900.

    Source: American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
  • (CNN) -- For some people who don't have the money, time or desire for a face-lift, injectable cosmetic fillers are becoming a more popular option -- even if some are illegal.

    Unlike Botox -- which temporarily paralyzes muscles -- fillers plump up the face from underneath the skin, actually filling in the wrinkles.

    Products available in the United States are made of collagen, human skin or the patient's own fat.

    But there are newer wrinkle filler options available in other countries that haven't been approved for use in the United States.

    "Over the past couple of years, there have been over 120 new injectable materials that have been created," said Dr. Brian Maloney, a plastic surgeon in Atlanta, Georgia.

    Several of these products are under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, including one injection called Restylane.

    Restylane is a derivative of fluid found in human joints. More than 200,000 people in 60 countries use it. The results can last from a few months up to a year, according to its maker, Swedish-based Q-Med.

    Although Restylane has been available in Canada and Europe for more than four years, it's not legally available for distribution in the United States.

    But that hasn't stopped some doctors from using it.

    When CNN called listed plastic surgeons to ask if Restylane injections were available, 30 percent of plastic surgeons in Los Angeles, California, said yes. And 13 percent and 7 percent of those called in New York and Miami, respectively, responded it was available.

    But Maloney cautions against using products that haven't gained government approval.

    "Two or three years down the road, some patients' bodies may all of a sudden begin to reject [injectable fillers]," Maloney said. "And those implants may be worked out through the surface."

    Other cosmetic fillers under FDA review include Artecoll and Radiance. A biological combination of collagen and synthetic material, ArtecoIl was recommended for approval by a FDA advisory panel Friday (Full story). Radiance is a product made of the same mineral components as bone and teeth.

    Most surgeons are waiting for government approval before adding more treatments to what are being nicknamed "lunch lifts" because of the short turn-around time from injection to results.

    Marie Lowrance, 58, can't get her plastic surgeon, Dr. Steven Herman of New York, to use Restylane. Instead, she undergoes a series of approved temporizing treatments that could run her upward of $4,500.

    "Women are interested in having something done so they can look better and yet not take downtime that is necessary for surgery," Herman said.

    In her lunch hour, Lowrance gets Botox injections to stave off a wrinkly forehead and collagen in her laugh lines. And in her upper lip, she gets AlloDerm, a derivative from human skin.

    The AlloDerm is inserted with a hook like a needle and then pulled under the lip's skin, an invasive procedure that some doctors say could be replaced by a few lip injections of Restylane. They say Restylane also could replace the collagen injections in Lowrance's laugh lines.

    But her doctor said he prefers a more cautious approach.

    "I choose at this point to wait until there is actual FDA approval," Herman said. "Everyone has to realize that the Restylane is not a magic cure. It is still a temporary substance and will have to be repeated."

    CNN Correspondent Whitney Casey and Producers Susan Mittleman and Leslie Wade contributed to this report.

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