But, Thermage has also implemented a new business model that charges the physician for each treatment by ‘deactivating’ a treatment tip after a set number of pulses or a specific time, even if the tip is still usable. This leaves the doctor in the position of having treatment tips that would still work, except that they’ve been artificially turned off. With tips costing up to $800 for a single treatment and medical practices under increasing pressure to maintain profitability, many doctors are turning to third parties to ‘reactivate’ these Thermage tips for additional use by bypassing the counter inside the chip and effectively resetting the device to allow for continued use.
According to Thermage, they disable tips to ensure patient safety.
Thermage’s position on reactivating Thermage tips:
“The largest study we know of involving Thermage is a four year study conducted by Weiss,1 and it only involved 600 patients. In addition, the claims in the Stevens publication are also wildly inconsistent with immense quantities of Thermage quality and reliability data we have compiled on our own products over the years. We know for a fact the dielectric membrane on our treatment tip will break down when subjected to a tiny fraction of the repeated use this publication alleges can be done. Dielectric breakdown can result in patient harm.
There are certainly potential complications that can arise from treating patients with damaged Thermage tips that can include burns or the destruction of underlying fat that can leave permanent depressions. But, with more and more physicians looking to squeeze out a profit wherever they can and grey-market suppliers able to sell a reactivated Thermage tip for hundreds of dollars below the retail price, this trend may grow in popularity.