Richard Clark, a plastic surgeon from Sacramento (CA), was the first to document a cosmetic use for botulinum toxin. He treated forehead asymmetry caused by left sided forehead nerve paralysis that occurred during a cosmetic facelift. Since the injured nerve could possibly regenerate by 24 months, a two-year waiting period was necessary before definitive surgical treatment could be done. Clark realized that botulinum toxin, which had been previously used only for cross eyed babies and facial tics, could also be injected to smooth the wrinkles of the right forehead to match her paralyzed left. He received FDA approval for this cosmetic application of the toxin and successfully treated the person and published the case study in 1989.
With this in mind, the average cost for treating forehead lines varies from approximately $200 to $600. Patients with fine lines or smaller facial muscles won’t require as many units of Botox to achieve a successful outcome, whereas patients with stronger facial muscles (such as pronounced corrugator muscles which cause deeper frown lines) could require more.
Tell your doctor if you have received any other botulinum toxin product in the last 4 months; have received injections of botulinum toxin such as Myobloc®, Dysport®, or Xeomin® in the past (tell your doctor exactly which product you received); have recently received an antibiotic injection; take muscle relaxants; take allergy or cold medicines; take sleep medicine; take aspirin-like products or blood thinners.
The FDA approved such usage in the late 1980s when it was discovered that BOTOX® could stop ailments such as blepharospasm (uncontrolled blinking) and strabismus (lazy eye). Cosmetic physicians have been using BOTOX® for years to successfully treat wrinkles and facial creases. BOTOX® is approved for treatment of frown lines on the forehead, crow’s feet (lines around the eye), and axillary hyperhidrosis (increased sweating of the armpits). Within the past few years, new products that have similar preparations have been introduced into the U.S. market and have been well-received by patients.
Serious adverse reactions, including excessive weakness, dysphagia, and aspiration pneumonia, with some adverse reactions associated with fatal outcomes, have been reported in patients who received BOTOX injections for unapproved uses. In these cases, the adverse reactions were not necessarily related to distant spread of toxin, but may have resulted from the administration of BOTOX to the site of injection and/or adjacent structures. In several of the cases, patients had pre-existing dysphagia or other significant disabilities. There is insufficient information to identify factors associated with an increased risk for adverse reactions a ssociated with the unapproved uses of BOTOX. The safety and effectiveness of BOTOX for unapproved uses have not been established.
It’s been a little over three weeks. The neurologist said that after two weeks, my migraines and headaches should be substantially reduced. I haven’t spoken about it much even to people close to me because I didn’t want to jinx it, but right around the two-week mark, my headaches faded. I did have a migraine the day after the injections, followed by a lingering headache for about a week, but my neurologist didn’t think it was caused by the Botox. I know my body and have a feeling it was, especially because the introduction or removal of medication can exacerbate lupus symptoms and flares, so I was put on a prednisone taper just to be safe.
During treatment, very low doses of Botox® Cosmetic are administered via a few tiny injections directly into the muscles responsible for frown lines between the brows. By blocking the release of a chemical that causes them to contract, Botox® Cosmetic enables them to relax. The effects are very localized and, when administered by an experienced injector, do not affect your ability to smile, laugh, or otherwise show expression. Botox® Cosmetic is the only product of its kind that has been approved for use in this area.
It’s not just about Botox, though. Last month, the FDA approved the first migraine-specific drug to prevent the severe headaches. Called Aimovig, the injectable med will cost $6,900 a year, according to The New York Times, plus injection fees. Because of the high costs, experts expect the new drug to be subject to step therapy policies. Stephen Silberstein, the director of the headache center at Jefferson University, told me in 2016 that he wouldn’t be surprised if insurance companies required patients to even try and fail Botox before covering the new meds (there are a few of them under development).
I was lucky. My health insurance only required me to try and fail two other less expensive migraine medications, and it didn’t dictate how long I had to try them for before giving up. Other insurers have stricter rules: Aetna, for example, requires patients to try at least three medications for at least two months each. HealthPartners also requires patients to try and fail three medications, such as beta blockers and antidepressants, without specifying for how long. (Requirements may vary by state and policy.) Because these migraine drugs are designed to treat other conditions like high blood pressure and depression, they can have serious side effects like weight gain, fatigue, and difficulty in thinking and speaking clearly.
Not much. Results begin to show in a couple of days and develop gradually over the course of two weeks. "I tell anyone preparing for a big event to have shots two weeks ahead of time," says Kane. Some observers believe Dysport sets in faster than Botox, but that has not been proven in a study. Patients taking medications that contain aspirin or NSAIDs can develop pinpoint blue bruising. Patients can wear makeup immediately but should avoid heavy workouts for 24 hours, says Carruthers.
Just because not every cosmetic Botox procedure is FDA-approved doesn't mean it's not safe and effective, if done properly. Off-label procedures are still within the standard of care, and there are tons of them. “There are so many non-FDA-approved applications for Botox,” says dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD. “It can be used to decrease scalp-sweating (which helps prolong blowouts), correct a droopy nasal tip (called nasal-tip ptosis), fix brow asymmetry, minimize bunny lines from wrinkling your nose, decrease skin oiliness, minimize the appearance of pores...” The list goes on and on.
Some industry insiders say it's not unusual, if still legally murky, for drug-company representatives and doctors to share information with one another about the different ways an approved drug may be used. If a doctor notices that, say, a treatment for crossed eyes also "takes the lines out," he may mention it to the representative from whom he buys the drugs. That rep may share that with another of his clients, and so on.
Though botulinum toxin is available under different names, Botox is the only one that is FDA-approved for migraine prevention. To be considered for Botox, patients must have migraines 15 days or more per month, which is considered chronic daily migraine. About 4 million Americans have such migraines, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. Also, patients must have tried and failed on at least 2 other medications first.
Costs to consider: immediate out-of-pocket costs, long-term higher cost of insurance, your time, and the pain of injections. Botox for migraine costs approximately $525 per vial (100 units) and a typical migraine dose is 155 units. Depending on what your doctor charges in addition to the Botox itself, it’ll set you back $1500 – $2300 to test it out. And then there’s the needle pain. Don’t make the mistake of going to get a Botox injection if you’re in the midst of an attack, because it’ll be more painful than ever. Better to reschedule.
Many times, effects on spasticity are longer lasting. It is not clear if this is due to breaking down patterned movements (many muscles contracting together rather than singly) or from allowing weak muscles to get stronger over time (that were overpowered before by more spastic muscles pulling against them). It is vital to have close follow-up after the injections to figure out the best course of treatment.
There has not been a confirmed serious case of spread of toxin effect away from the injection site when BOTOX® has been used at the recommended dose to treat chronic migraine, severe underarm sweating, blepharospasm, strabismus, or when BOTOX® Cosmetic has been used at the recommended dose to treat frown lines, crow’s feet lines, and/or forehead lines.