National report — Numbers don't lie, and those tied to the use of Restylane (Q-Med Laboratories) and Botox (Allergan) tell it all: The demand for the filler Restylane jumped 927 percent in 2004, and Botox use has increased 280 percent since 2000, according to figures released recently by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. These figures may seem incredible, yet it's certain they will continue to grow with the advent of "loyalty reward" programs targeting the frequent-filler patient.
As if following a marketing trend once popular mainly with airlines, hotels and credit card companies, Medicis Pharmaceuticals Corp. launched Restylane Rewards in February to offer advantages to loyal Restylane consumers who stay with their semi-annual treatment schedules. The program is designed to encourage injections every six months by offering cash "gifts" that increase in value with each subsequent appointment.
"This program is valuable not only because the patient receives rewards ranging from $25 select retailer gift cards to $100 spa gift certificates, but it is also beneficial because reminder cards are included to set up their next appointment," Medicis product manager Michelle Hoover tells Cosmetic Surgery Times.
Bringing back patients is key to a drug's success, especially when each injection of Restylane typically costs $500 to $750. Lifestyle drugs and medical treatments may be increasing in popularity, but reward programs such as the one offered by Medicis are attempting to reduce the expense of the multiple injections required to maintain a corrected look.
Botox maker Allergan has also been trying to entice the repeat customer. Less than a year ago, Allergan began giving dermatologists "VIP cards" to offer discounts on follow-up visits. Of the 14,000 physicians nationwide who administer cosmetic Botox, 14 percent are receiving VIP cards to distribute to their patients.
Medicis has introduced a customer loyalty program that provides patient rewards for Restylane use. The program has raised ethical questions among some practitioners. (Graphics: Medicis)
"The difference between our service is that the discounts are determined by the physician," says Caroline Van Hove, senior manager for Allergan's corporate communications. "You really can't compare our program to that being marketed by Medicis. Ours is truly a tool for physicians to use at their discretion for their patients."
Where the Allergan VIP cards are managed by physicians, Medicis completely controls and handles their rewards program, according to Ms. Hoover. The tent cards are placed in the dermatologists' offices to offer patients information on how to enroll. Once enrolled, they then submit a copy of their physician's dated invoice for a Restylane treatment, along with the end flap from the Restylane box used for their treatment. Consumers will receive an initial reward with proof of their first visit, and subsequent rewards for treatments at six-month intervals.
Questions and criticism
While Medicis maintains that the response from both dermatologists and their patients for the reward program is positive, some questions and concerns are emerging from within the industry.
"Physicians as a whole do not like the intrusions by companies that may persuade a patient's medical decision," says Ronald Iverson, M.D., past president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. "It's still the obligation of the physician to inform patients about the fillers and the risks associated with them. These reward programs do not change this."