Botulinum toxin (BTX) is a neurotoxic protein produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum and related species.[1] It prevents the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from axon endings at the neuromuscular junction and thus causes flaccid paralysis. Infection with the bacterium causes the disease botulism. The toxin is also used commercially in medicine, cosmetics and research.
I usually keep my patients on migraine preventative medications until we have seen sufficient relief of migraine to warrant a taper to a lower dose or even an attempt at medication discontinuation. Patients are free to use their typical migraine abortive medications for breakthrough migraines. There are some patients that find that they still require their other anti-migraine medications for full migraine control.
In general, the initial effect of the injections is seen within three days and reaches a peak at one to two weeks post-treatment. Each treatment lasts approximately three months, following which the procedure can be repeated. At repeat treatment sessions, the dose may be increased up to two-fold if the response from the initial treatment is considered insufficient, usually defined as an effect that does not last longer than two months. However, there appears to be little benefit obtainable from injecting more than 5 Units per site. Some tolerance may be found when BOTOX is used in treating blepharospasm if treatments are given any more frequently than every three months, and is rare to have the effect be permanent.
In the case of Botox, doctors who experiment off-label say they do so because they're looking for better treatment options for their patients. "In my 30 years of medical practice, Botox is one of the most impactful treatments I had ever seen," says Dr. Linda Brubaker, dean and chief diversity officer of the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, who independently studied Botox for overactive bladder before the FDA approved it for that condition in 2013.
It is not always clear what is causing chronic migraines. BOTOX is a viable option for treating migraines, and it may be the most effective treatment for you. Migraines lead to extreme pain that impacts every aspect of life, from personal to professional. Migraines are debilitating and for some who suffer from the condition, bedrest is the only option. A BOTOX treatment for migraines is a simple procedure but could vastly improve your quality of life.
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.
No definitive serious adverse event reports of distant spread of toxin effect associated with dermatologic use of BOTOX® Cosmetic at the labeled dose of 20 Units (for glabellar lines), 24 Units (for lateral canthal lines), 40 Units (for forehead lines with glabellar lines), 44 Units (for simultaneous treatment of lateral canthal lines and glabellar lines), and 64 Units (for simultaneous treatment of lateral canthal lines, glabellar lines, and forehead lines) have been reported.
Once the protein stops functioning at the neuromuscular junction, it is broken down into its harmless components (amino acids) and either recycled for use in other proteins or excreted by the kidneys. "The bigger the muscle, the quicker you'll see motion return," says Rowe. "Likewise, the smaller the muscle, the longer the effect of botox lasts." It doesn't have a tolerance effect, either—your body never gets used to Botox.
Hoffman’s husband’s experience is not unusual. Once a patient gets the more expensive prescription, health insurance providers can still try and push them back to cheaper drugs. Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Loder says that most health insurance companies stop paying for Botox if it’s not reducing a patient’s migraines by at least 50 percent. “It’s important to keep careful headache diaries and keep careful notes in order to be able to prove to the insurance company that the treatment is worth it,” Loder says. “You’re not home free once they approve it.”
This is because the discretionary procedures tend to be out of pocket, and providers are used to answering the question: how much does it cost? An MRI, on the other hand, might have several prices: A sticker price, a negotiated or reimbursed rate (what the insurance company pays), the rate that Medicare and Medicaid pay for treatments for people who are older and those who have low income, an out-of-network price, and so on. We know about this because we’ve done pricing surveys for about 35 common procedures in seven U.S. metro areas, collecting cash or self-pay prices for both medically necessary procedures (an MRI, a colonoscopy) and discretionary procedures (Botox, Lasik).
In clinical trials, 6.5% of patients (36/552) initiated clean intermittent catheterization for urinary retention following treatment with BOTOX® 100 Units as compared to 0.4% of patients (2/542) treated with placebo. The median duration of catheterization for patients treated with BOTOX® 100 Units was 63 days (minimum 1 day to maximum 214 days) as compared to a median duration 11 days (minimum 3 days to maximum 18 days) for patients receiving placebo.
The median duration of response in study NDO-1 and NDO-2, based on patient qualification for re-treatment was 295-337 days (4248 weeks) for the 200 Units dose group compared to 96-127 days (13-18 weeks) for placebo. Re-treatment was based on loss of effect on incontinence episode frequency (50% of effect in Study NDO-1; 70% of effect in Study NDO-2).
Botox is best known for smoothing out wrinkles, but since 2010 it’s also been used to prevent migraines. (Scientists aren’t 100 percent sure why Botox works, though it may interfere with the transmission of pain signals to the brain.) Though the 36 injections I get every three months in my forehead, skull, neck, and shoulders are painful, they’ve been a game changer. I went from 16 to 18 migraines a month to about eight. The intensity of the pain has gone down, too. The results are so good that I find myself frustrated that I spent so many years in unnecessary misery.
Treatment with BOTOX® and other botulinum toxin products can result in swallowing or breathing difficulties. Patients with pre-existing swallowing or breathing difficulties may be more susceptible to these complications. In most cases, this is a consequence of weakening of muscles in the area of injection that are involved in breathing or oropharyngeal muscles that control swallowing or breathing (see Boxed Warning).
In 2010, Allergan pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $600 million to resolve allegations that it unlawfully promoted Botox for conditions--including headaches, pain, spasticity and juvenile cerebral palsy--that at the time were not approved by the FDA. In one of the complaints, prosecutors said that Allergan "illegally, vigorously and without any thought to the possible negative health effects to which it subjected patients, promoted off-label uses of Botox." The U.S. Department of Justice also argued that Allergan exploited on-label uses for cervical dystonia--a disorder characterized by extreme neck-muscle contractions--to "grow off-label pain and headache sales." Prosecutors also argued that Allergan paid doctors to give presentations and trainings to other physicians about Botox uses that at the time were off-label.

Think about it this way: people make facial expressions every single day, whether it's expressing an emotion (i.e. smiling) or simply out of habit (i.e. raising your brows). Making facial expressions causes temporary dynamic lines to show up in your face. These lines go away when your face returns to rest. However, as you continue to make facial expressions, day after day and year after year, and as your skin ages, these lines start to get etched in your skin. That's when frown lines get progressively deeper for people who frown all the time. Or when crow's feet stay put even after you stop smiling or squinting. Eventually, what once were dynamic wrinkles become wrinkles that are just there, even when you don't make any facial expressions.
But for some conditions, step therapy can be downright harmful. In a 2016 op-ed in The Boston Globe, a patient with ulcerative colitis wrote that his health insurance forced him to try a cheaper treatment for six months, instead of the pricier meds his doctor wanted to prescribe. In those six months, his colon deteriorated so badly it had to be removed.
In study 2, 320 adults with bilateral axillary primary hyperhidrosis were randomized to receive either 50 Units of BOTOX (n=2 42) or placebo (n=78). Treatment responders were defined as subjects showing at least a 50% reduction from baseline in axillary sweating measured by gravimetric measurement at 4 weeks. At week 4 post-injection, the percentages of responders were 91% (219/242) in the BOTOX group and 36% (28/78) in the placebo group, p<0.001. The difference in percentage of responders between BOTOX and placebo was 55% (95% CI=43.3, 65.9).

If, however, you are on a budget, you might want to wait until the end of the year to get your Botox injections. Botox promotions, whether from the Brilliant Distinctions program or from individual doctor's offices, are more common towards the end of the year when people want to get touch ups and look their best for the holidays. However, if someone is offering Botox for a ridiculously cheap price (like you sometimes see on deal websites like Groupon.com), that should raise some red flags. You tend to get what you pay for and in my experience with my mom's Botox treatments, it is better to overpay than underpay. Don't get Botox from a shady place just because it's cheap. Remember, you are not only paying for the units of Botox per treatment, you are also paying for the skill and expertise of the doctor. So make sure you get Botox from a well-trained, reputable physician!
In clinical trials, 6.5% of patients (36/552) initiated clean intermittent catheterization for urinary retention following treatment with BOTOX® 100 Units as compared to 0.4% of patients (2/542) treated with placebo. The median duration of catheterization for patients treated with BOTOX® 100 Units was 63 days (minimum 1 day to maximum 214 days) as compared to a median duration 11 days (minimum 3 days to maximum 18 days) for patients receiving placebo.
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That said, there are a few things I'd make sure everyone knows before trying it. For one thing, it can be pretty painful. I have a pretty high pain tolerance, but getting 30 to 40 shots every three months is pretty rough — it feels a bit like getting tattooed with a bee's stinger, but once the needle is out of your skin, the pain goes away, and if it works for you, it's worth it. It's also important to know that it can take some time to work. The first treatment barely worked at all for me, and the second round took a few weeks. If you're going to try it out, be patient.

Safety and effectiveness of BOTOX® have not been established for the treatment of other upper or lower limb muscle groups or for the treatment of spasticity in pediatric patients under age 18 years. BOTOX® has not been shown to improve upper extremity functional abilities, or range of motion at a joint affected by a fixed contracture. Treatment with BOTOX® is not intended to substitute for usual standard of care rehabilitation regimens.
But for some conditions, step therapy can be downright harmful. In a 2016 op-ed in The Boston Globe, a patient with ulcerative colitis wrote that his health insurance forced him to try a cheaper treatment for six months, instead of the pricier meds his doctor wanted to prescribe. In those six months, his colon deteriorated so badly it had to be removed.
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).
“Your doctor still has to be willing to do the work of filing a waiver and they don’t get reimbursed for that work, so they don’t like to do it,” Hoffman says. Plus, there’s a federal law called ERISA that exempts certain types of employer-provided health plans, called self-funded plans, from the requirements of state laws. So, for roughly a quarter of Americans who have these health plans, the state limitations to step therapy don’t apply.

"We were very skeptical," says Edwin Chapman, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin--Madison, after reading Caleo's study. But in August 2016, Chapman and his graduate student Ewa Bomba-Warczak published a study in the journal Cell Reports showing similar spreading effects in animal cells in the lab. For Chapman, it explained what he was hearing anecdotally from doctors: that Botox might be influencing the central nervous system and not just the area where it's being injected.

Botulism toxins are produced by bacteria of the genus Clostridium, namely Clostridium botulinum, C. butyricum, C. baratii and C. argentinense,[70] which are widely distributed, including in soil and dust. As well, the bacteria can be found inside homes on floors, carpet, and countertops even after cleaning.[citation needed] Some food products such as honey can contain amounts of the bacteria.[citation needed]


There are numerous areas where Botox may be used, including the forehead, crow's feet, gummy smile, chin, neck, and other areas of the body. Many of these are under investigation at this time for approval by the FDA. Additionally, topical forms of botulinum toxin (Revance) are under study at present. With time, these will likely come to market and be absorbed into the body of treatments for which Botox is used.
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.
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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.
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