A recent encounter with one of my headache patients got me thinking. I am treating this young woman for chronic migraine with BOTOX injections. She told me that one of her other physicians had been surprised to hear about this use for onabotulinumtoxin A. According to my patient, the gastroenterologist’s words were, “BOTOX for migraines? I’ve never heard of that.” 
It may be the most well known, but Botox is just one type of neurotoxin on the market. Other, next-level neurotoxins are Dysport, FDA-approved in 2009, and Xeomin, FDA-approved in 2011. “They all originate from the same strain of bacteria, therefore they work essentially in the same way,” explains Z. Paul Lorenc, MD, a board certified aesthetic plastic surgeon in Manhattan. “There are some nuanced differences between the three,” he adds. Xeomin is a purified neurotoxin, also called a “naked molecule,” because it doesn’t contain any extra surface proteins, the way Botox and Dysport do. This “pure” neurotoxin migrates deeper into skin, works faster, and poses less risk of an allergic reaction. “Theoretically, decreasing the protein load also lessens the chance of becoming a non-responder, meaning it lessens the chance that the patient will become immune to the neuromodulator being injected,” Dr. Lorenc says. Dysport tends to spread a little more than Botox, so it’s good for areas that would otherwise need multiple injections. It also kicks in faster than the other two, typically showing effects after two to three days opposed to seven to ten days with Botox, and five to six days with Xeomin. Once you try the different neurotoxins, you might decide you like one brand better than the others.

But today it's the medical uses of the drug that are the great moneymaker, in part because doctors are getting a better handle on how to use it. Botulinum toxin type A is one of seven neurotoxins produced from Clostridium botulinum. Contracting botulism is bad news: it can cause blurred vision, persistent trouble swallowing and worse. In one recent case, close to 30 people were hospitalized in Ohio in 2015 after attending a church potluck. One person died. The outbreak was ultimately attributed to a potato salad made from improperly home-canned potatoes that were harboring the bacteria. Given its level of toxicity, some countries have even explored its potential use as a bioweapon.


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.
Botulinum toxin is one of the most poisonous substances known to man. Scientists have estimated that a single gram could kill as many as 1 million people and a couple of kilograms could kill every human on earth. In high concentrations, botulinum toxin can result in botulism, a severe, life-threatening illness. Botulism, left untreated, may result in respiratory failure and death. Despite botulinum toxin being so toxic, Botox is in huge demand.
After an exam by a therapist and doctor, botulinum toxin for focal relief of muscle spasticity can be advised as the best way to address a child's functional problems. The problem muscle groups are identified, and goals for that child are discussed. Then the injection of botulinum toxin can be done if there are no permanent contractures of the muscle groups.
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.
BOTOX® can be used on the forehead lines, frown lines, crow’s feet, bunny lines (lines in the nose), chin (for dimpling), skin bands on the neck, and around the mouth (for smoker’s lines and down-turned corners of the mouth). Wrinkles caused by sun damage and gravity often will not respond to BOTOX®. It is important to re-emphasize that BOTOX® is NOT a facial filler (that is, it does not fill existing wrinkles) – it merely relaxes the muscles that are creating those wrinkles.
When my babies were little, I never discussed migraine with them. As they grew into preschool and elementary age, I found it necessary to explain it to them.  They had seen me experience migraine symptoms for a long time but understood it as just being sick. We went to a migraine walk where we talked about how others cope like I do, and they heard other stories that were similar to mine. They felt empowered that we had fundraised for a disease that affects millions and that we were fighting it as a family and community. My children want to help. Having ways they can help builds their confidence in their ability to take care of me, as I do them. They know to turn the lights off, get ice and talk quietly. I have taught them how to be self-sufficient. I’m so proud of how they take care of themselves and are willing to take care of others. The qualities that they’re learning and displaying will carry them through life.
When BOTOX was administered intramuscularly to pregnant rats (0.125, 0.25, 0.5, 1, 4, or 8 Units/kg) or rabbits (0.063, 0.125 , 0.25, or 0.5 Units/kg) daily during the period of organogenesis (total of 12 doses in rats, 13 doses in rabbits), reduced fetal body weights and decreased fetal skeletal ossification were observed at the two highest doses in rats and at the highest dose in rabbit s. These doses were also associated with significant maternal toxicity, including abortions, early deliveries, and maternal death. The developmen tal no-effect doses in these studies of 1 Unit/kg in rats and 0.25 Units/kg in rabbits are less than the human dose of 400 Units, based on Units/kg.

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.
CONDITIONS OF USE: The information in this database is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of healthcare professionals. The information is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, drug interactions or adverse effects, nor should it be construed to indicate that use of a particular drug is safe, appropriate or effective for you or anyone else. A healthcare professional should be consulted before taking any drug, changing any diet or commencing or discontinuing any course of treatment.
Study 1 included 126 patients (64 BOTOX and 62 placebo) with upper limb spasticity (Ashworth score of at least 3 for wrist flexor tone and at least 2 for finger flexor tone) who were at least 6 months post -stroke. BOTOX (a total dose of 200 Units to 240 Units) and placebo were injected intramuscularly (IM) into the flexor digitorum profundus, flexor digito rum sublimis, flexor carpi radialis, flexor carpi ulnaris, and if necessary into the adductor pollicis and flexor pollicis longus (see Table 25). Use of an EMG/nerve stimulator was recommended to assist in proper muscle localization for injection. Patients were followed for 12 weeks.
Tell your doctor about all your medical conditions, including: plans to have surgery; had surgery on your face; have trouble raising your eyebrows; drooping eyelids; any other abnormal facial change; are pregnant or plan to become pregnant (it is not known if BOTOX® Cosmetic can harm your unborn baby); are breast-feeding or plan to (it is not known if BOTOX® Cosmetic passes into breast milk).
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