FDA approves injections to get rid of double chins

Drug destroys the membranes of fat cells

FDA on Wednesday approved a new drug for dissolving moderate-to-severe fat deposits under a person's chin, which can create what is commonly known as a "double chin."

Called Kybella, the injectable drug is slated to become available on the commercial market in June. It is a version of deoxycholic acid, which Kythera Biopharmaceuticals, the drug's manufacturer, says is "a naturally occurring molecule in the body that aids in the breakdown of dietary fat."

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Derek Jones, a doctor who presented the drug to the FDA in March, says the drug destroys the membranes of fat cells, causing them to burst. He says that the remainder of the fat cells are absorbed into the body though "normal metabolic pathways."

In two randomized trials of the drug, researchers found that 68% of patients who got Kybella injections saw a significant decrease in chin fa, compared with 20% of patients receiving placebo injections.

"For highly selected patients who have under-chin fat without sagging skin, this will work," says Rod Rohrich, a professor of plastic surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas who was not involved in clinical trials of the drug.

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Studies have found that the most common side effects of Kybella include bruising, pain, and swelling. FDA has warned, however, that the drug can also destroy skin cells if accidentally injected into a patient's skin.

The company has not yet announced a price for the product (Saint Louis, New York Times, 4/30; Christensen, CNN, 4/30; Lupkin, "Good Morning America," ABC News, 4/29).

The takeaway: A newly approved drug could reduce fat deposits under the chin—which can give people the appearance of a "double chin"—by destroying the membranes of fat cells.

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