Pharmaceutical company Allergan saw a major hurdle in its race to acquire Inamed removed yesterday, after another suitor for the company, Medicis, walked away from the contest.

At stake is a slice of the fast-growing market for ‘aesthetic medicines’, particularly non-surgical interventions for to counter the signs of ageing. Allergan already has a major product in this category with its wrinkle treatment Botox (botulinum toxin type A), and wants to add Inamed’s range of dermal fillers to its franchise.

Inamed had already said that Allergan’s $3.2 billion dollar bid for its business was superior to the $2.5 billion offer from Medicis, which sells a portfolio of dermatological drugs, so the latter’s decision to exit gracefully does not come as a surprise, particularly as management had insisted it would not raise its offer. Medicis receives the consolation of a $90 million termination fee payment from Inamed.

The decision could also be good news for plastic surgery product specialist Mentor, which has tabled its own $2.2 billion offer for Medicis. Medicis had rejected the bid but may be persuaded to look at it again now it has given up on Inamed, although in a statement it said nothing about the Mentor offer, emphasizing its in-house business prospects and saying its pipeline was ‘rich in near- and long-term opportunities."

Meanwhile, Medicis is also a likely buyer for Inamed’s botulinum toxin product Reloxin, which will be divested to avoid any antitrust issues for the Allergan/Inamed marriage.

The market for non-surgical cosmetic products is currently valued at more than $45 billion and is tipped to expand to $72 billion by 2009, according to market research firm Business Communications Co.