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Thermage-Reliant merger seen as beneficial for physicians and patients alike

Article-Thermage-Reliant merger seen as beneficial for physicians and patients alike

Hayward, Calif. -- With its recently finalized purchase of Fraxel-maker Reliant Technologies Inc., the former Thermage Inc. made a significant change by renaming the combined companies Solta Medical Inc., and it's likely that more significant changes lay ahead.

As Thermage, Hayward-based Solta Medical was best know for developing the Thermage system, which is the only device in the industry to use monopolar capacitive radiofrequency (RF) energy to tighten and contour skin. The noninvasive skin-tightening treatments heat the skin and help create a smoother appearance, and the Thermage system has become the gold standard in many cosmetic surgeons' eyes for such procedures.

Meanwhile, Mountain View-Calif.-based Reliant Technologies was developing the Fraxel line of laser devices for fractional aesthetic skin treatment. The Fraxel family now includes the Fraxel re:pair¨, Fraxel re:storeª and Fraxel re:fineª devices and, like Thermage in its niche, is considered by many to be the industry standard for laser fractional aesthetic skin treatment. Fraxel lasers have received multiple clearances from the Food and Drug Administration and in a number of clinical trials have been found safe and effective in treating many areas of the face and body.

"This is a very important milestone that offers us the opportunity to expand our market presence" said Chairman, President and C.E.O. Stephen J. Fanning in a prepared statement. "Our product offerings are complementary and will allow us to cross-sell a more complete product line to physicians and their patients through one of the largest direct U.S. sales forces in the industry and an expansive international distribution network."

Late last year, the two companies announced the purchase agreement. Thermage bought Reliant for approximately $23 million in stock shares, $25 million in cash and the assumption of $7 million in Reliant debt. The purchase was finalized in December, and the name change to Solta was announced in January.

"Both of these companies have a lot in common as market leaders in their specialties," Solta Director of Communications Kate Gilbert tells Cosmetic Surgery Times. "Both companies are focused on innovation, and Thermage, in particular, has always been focused on partnership with its physician customers. Both of these aspects will continue to be a focus under the combined companies that now make up Solta Medical."

According to Ms. Gilbert, the Solta focus on customer (physician) partnership will continue in the form of clinical training, marketing and customer support. An example of the latter is that Solta, as it did as Thermage, will continue to offer physicians the same Diamond Rewards loyalty program, which extends price and other considerations to members.

"Now this program will include Fraxel, so that our physician-customers who commit to our products can benefit from partnering with us," Ms. Gilbert says. "We think both our marketing and customer-support efforts, in addition to our continuing focus on innovation and research-and-development, will help physicians better satisfy their patients' needs and enhance their practices."

It's the clinical aspect of the merged new company's products that may hold significant promise for the practice of cosmetic surgery down the road.

"It is always helpful to the specialty when companies pool resources to optimize research and development," says Boston dermatologist Ranella Hirsch, M.D., who also serves as president of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery. "Dermatologists are looking forward to seeing what new products and/or improvements might be forthcoming from the newly merged entity."

Which is exactly what Solta will focus on, according to Ms. Gilbert."Both companies have a history of being strong in innovation and research-and-development," Ms. Gilbert tells Cosmetic Surgery Times. "Bringing the two together will be a very good combination in terms of R&D."

In the short term, she says, Solta is committed to continuing to refine both the Thermage system and the Fraxel family of devices.

"In the longer term," Ms. Gilbert adds, "R&D may well be looking at combining the two techologies into one."

That's undoubtedly good news for Wm. Philip Werschler, M.D., and the increasing number of aesthetic surgeons who favor the relatively new Thermage/Fraxel/fillers "trio"combination-therapy concept.

"I think this merger is an important one," says Dr. Werschler, assistant clinical professor of medicine and dermatology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, "much like the merger of the two devices with the use of fillers is an important combination-therapy concept in facial-rejuvenation technique." CST

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