More than any other procedure, botulinum toxin type A, more commonly known as Botox, has come to represent the public’s fascination with cosmetic surgery.
Originally identified as a toxin from Clostridium botulinum bacteria, Botox was first used in 1977 to treat strabismus, a problem with the eye muscles. The Food and Drug Administration approved it in 1989 for this purpose. When it was later used to treat uncontrolled muscle spasms in the face, patients had fewer wrinkles in the skin overlying the treated muscle. Doctors started using Botox for cosmetic reasons in 1996, and the FDA approved this use in 2002.
Botox Is Big Business
Sixty-five thousand Botox injections were performed in 1997. By 2005, there were 3.3 million injections in the United States alone. The manufacturer, Allergan, sold $831 million worth in 2005. This meteoric rise is due to a number of factors. First and foremost, the drug works. It does what it is supposed to do, with a minimum of associated problems. Combine this fact with the public’s increasing desire to look young, the increase in lifespan, and a highly competitive business environment, and you have the formula for Botox’s success.
Botox is the most common of the poisons produced by botulinum bacteria. It uses the type A toxin, while other companies market similar products with different toxins. Since this bacterium produces a soup of different toxins, and animals such as snakes also produce paralyzing toxins, expect competing products in the future to promise better or longer-lasting results. Sounds a little like snake oil!
Botulinum type B toxin, marketed as Myoblock, begins to work in three days, more quickly than Botox. However, it usually lasts less than ten weeks, whereas Botox lasts three to four months. Myoblock might be useful in people who are resistant to Botox or when blended with Botox to take advantage of both.
The Medicis Corporation will soon market Reloxin in the United States, Canada, Japan, and Europe. Called Dysport outside the United States, this drug will compete head-on with Botox. Perhaps then Allergan will lower the ever-increasing price of Botox.
Botox Is Most Commonly Used on the Wrinkles Between the Eyebrows
This area is called the glabella. The muscles between the eyebrows are called the corrugators and are useful for only one purpose: to create a fearful expression. Called vestigial muscles, they were at one time important because the scowling appearance scared away enemies, telegraphing an imminent attack. Let us hope that humans don’t need these muscles anymore.
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