Botox and Breast Augmentation: Plastic Surgery’s Commodities

While plastic surgery is comprised of hundreds of different procedures that are used to correct problems all over the body, they are all true medical operations and treatments. Yet some of the most popular cosmetic treatments have almost as much in common with a retail or commercial product as they do with being a medical procedure.

Botox as a non-surgical procedure and breast augmentation as a surgical operation have begun to acquire many retail product characteristics over the past decade. Both are highly marketed and promoted, so much so that few people in the world would not recognize what they are. From billboards to magazines, and endless exposure on the internet, the offering of services and the recruitment for paying customers is extensive. Some of these are from the commercial product suppliers on a national front and many others are from physicians on a local basis. Such enticements are right in line with what has also occurred in the pharmaceutical industry by the manufacturers for certain prescription medications.

Unlike most drugs, however, Botox and breast augmentation largely targets the fee-for-service customer.  These are cosmetic services which are either paid for at the time the treatment is done (Botox) or some time in advance. (Breast Augmentation) With the allure of immediate cash payment comes the inevitable price war and the potential slide into a commodity service. Ads are a plenty for Botox at specific per unit prices and flat low-end fees for breast implant surgery. Dysport, the recent competitor to Botox, has offered incentives if you are unhappy with your Botox results. Breast implant manufacturers have lifelong replacement warranties and even $3500 cash for surgical costs should an implant need to be replaced in the first ten years after surgery.

But unlike most commodity services or pure retail products, these medical procedures do have other intrinsic values. It is obviously important to be able to receive these services with the lowest risk possible and be able to get the desired outcome. The intrinsic value is in the expertise and experience of whom is performing it. Lowest price for medical services is not always the best value. Price alone is not the best barometer to judge whom and where these services should be received.

Competition amongst cosmetic providers has fueled the reduction of services like Botox and breast augmentation into partial commodities. Prices amongst them in any community usually stays within a fairly narrow range as a result. Such competition is not necessarily bad. It keeps all providers sharp and makes sure that their prices, no matter how much intrinsic value they may have, stay within a reasonable range. Be wary, however, of really low prices that are different from the community average. There may be a good reason why they are priced that way and it is not usually for your benefit. You do not want inferior quality medical services when it comes to having something injected or implanted into your body.      

Dr. Barry Eppley