Specialty pharmaceutical firm Allergan has moved into pole position in the race to acquire breast implant maker Inamed, after the latter said its offer was superior to an earlier bid by Medicis.

Inamed said that Allergan’s $3.2 billion dollar bid was ‘fair and superior’ to the Medicis transaction, valued at $2.5 billion, although it stressed it would remain neutral in the affair and would not make any recommendation either way to its shareholders.

But while dermatology specialist Medicis is being spurned by Inamed, it has another $2.2 billion merger offer on the table from plastic surgery product company Mentor. This a relatively low offer, according to analysts, who say Mentor is banking on Allergan winning the tug of war for Inamed, so that Medicis will accept its offer for fear of losing market share.

All four companies are aiming to cement their position in the ‘aesthetic medicine’ market, and particularly the fast-growing non-surgical sector which is currently valued at more than $45 billion and is tipped to expand to $72 billion by 2009, according to BCC.

Allergan makes the wrinkle treatment Botox (botulinum toxin type A), and is thought to be particularly interested in a dermal filler range sold by Inamed to support this franchise in the face of growing competition. The pharma company has already said it will divest Reloxin, a botulinum toxin product sold by Inamed, if its offer goes through. Medicis would be a potential buyer for that product.