The US government has given its nod for human trials of a tanning drug.
The product, a man-made hormone called afamelanotide, is not being promoted as a cosmetic drug though. It will only be tested as a treatment for patients who face serious danger from the sun's rays, like those with rare genetic diseases or who must take immunosuppressants.
"It's a bioabsorbable implant that you just inject into the skin," said Colin Mackie, director of business development for Clinuvel, the company taking the drug to the U.S.
Clinuvel claims to have found five, though obscure, medical conditions that the drug could treat. But its USP in the market could be that it stimulates melanin production.
"This will not be a cosmetic drug," Clinuvel's CEO, Philippe Wolgen told a biotech trade publication last year. "I oppose systemic treatment for cosmetics."
But online sellers are already drooling. Already Melanotan I and II, are hits on the Internet. Melanotan II, in particular, appears to have aphrodisiac and erectile function effects as well, and hence its appeal.
American and British health officials have warned against the widespread abuse of Melanotan II.
"Using it could be dangerous to short and long-term health," British health officials said in November. It has not been tested for safety, quality or effectiveness and we don't know the potential side effects yet."
This week two British Medical Journal researchers warned that injecting the compound could change the size and shape of moles, which under normal circumstances can be a precursor to skin cancer.
But who cares? An online forum dedicated to Melanotan has more than 50,000 posts, most of which are about "Usage and Experimentation." Many describe detailed regimens for attaining darker skin and/or improved sexual function.
It must be remembered that in early animal trials, injections of the Clinuvel's drug caused a yellow dog's fur to become black and visibly darkened a frog's skin in minutes.
And once a drug is approved by the FDA for one purpose, it's easier to extend it to new conditions, just like the glaucoma-treatment turned eyelash enhancer, wrote Alexis Madrigal on the Wired. So many should be looking forwards to the FDA approval of the new Clinuvel drug.
"Market research has shown that the product has blockbuster potential in particular when used as a lifestyle drug, which draws a strong comparison to Botox or Viagra, two products with booming sales today."