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).
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.
The most frequently reported adverse reactions following injection of BOTOX for adult lower limb spasticity appear in Table 17. Two hundred thirty one patients enrolled in a double-blind placebo controlled study (Study 6) received 300 Units to 400 Units of BOTOX, and were compared with 233 patients who received placebo. Patients were followed for an average of 91 days after injection.
Dr. Matarasso says hardly a week goes by when he doesn’t see a patient with a botched Botox job. Why? People are getting it done by unexperienced, often unlicensed, practitioners who don’t know the shape of the face and how to correctly administer the toxin. “I just had a patient come in the other day who went to an ER doctor, and one that went to a psychiatrist,” he says. “They [also] have these Botox parties and I have seen scarring, significant bruising, not only functional, but aesthetic complications.”
Botulinum toxin has been investigated for use in patients with blepharospasm in several studies. In an open label, historical ly controlled study, 27 patients with essential blepharospasm were injected with 2 Units of BOTOX at each of six sites on each side. Twenty-five of the 27 patients treated with botulinum toxin reported improvement within 48 hours. One patient was controlled with a higher dosage at 13 weeks post initial injection and one patient reported mild improvement but remained functionally impaired.
In this study the median total BOTOX dose in patients randomized to receive BOTOX (N=88) was 236 Units, with 25th to 75th percentile ranges of 198 Units to 300 Units. Of these 88 patients, most received injections to 3 or 4 muscles; 38 received in jections to 3 muscles, 28 to 4 muscles, 5 to 5 muscles, and 5 to 2 muscles. The dose was divided amongst the affected muscles in quantities shown in Table 36. The total dose and muscles selected were tailored to meet individual patient needs.
Unremarkable. I mean, that’s a good thing in the MRI-reading world, but I’d like to say my brain is freakin’ remarkable sometimes. Maybe I’m biased. Anyways. Shortly after those tests, the Botox arrived at the office and I was scheduled for my injections. To say I was scared is putting it lightly. Like I mentioned before, I have a complete irrational fear of new medication. Also, I didn’t want my face to look different! So I documented my wrinkles just to see how many would last (if you want, be my guest to check out my embarrassing video). I didn’t have to wait long and before I knew it, I was in a room with my mom, my boyfriend, a neurologist and three needles.
It may be necessary for the patient to have additional procedures, such as the use of filler substances (for example, Restylane, Perlane, Juvederm, Sculptra, or Radiesse) in order to plump up the wrinkles that are now relaxed. Additionally, it may be necessary to have two or three sessions of Botox treatment for deeper wrinkles before results become optimal. The area of the crease between the eyes is a particularly ideal area for Botox use in conjunction with filler as these fixed wrinkles don't always respond optimally to Botox alone. There is some controversy about using filler in that area as it may block veins or arteries and result in loss of blood and a scar to the area. Generally, the smaller particle fillers, such as Restylane or Juvederm Ultra, are best in the area between the eyes for this reason.
So let's talk about it, shall we? And before we do, let's also get one thing out of the way—I've had Botox. And it was free. As a result, I've found myself trying to field questions about the price and popularity of certain treatments, and many times my knowledge on the subject comes up short. To remedy that fact, I decided to do some research into the real, unexaggerated pricing for injections and what each formula and technique will actually do to your face. Below find the answers you may have been looking for but didn't feel comfortable asking.
Sharona Hoffman, professor of law and bioethics at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, says that step therapy is driven by a single motivator: saving costs. Hoffman, who’s written about the legal and ethical implications of step therapy, says that sometimes step therapy can have sensible outcomes, like pushing patients to take generics instead of brand-name drugs. But these policies can also keep doctors from prescribing the more expensive drugs of choice, forcing patients to take medications that are less effective or have worse side effects.
On Wednesday, Saunders said at a conference that Allergan is planning to sell its women's health and infectious disease businesses, putting more attention on Allergan's four "core" businesses, which are eye care, aesthetics, diseases of the central nervous system, and gastrointestinal conditions. Allergan's stock fell on the news, suggesting investors haven't been appeased yet.
Shah says that it’s harder to treat wrinkles with just Botox as they get more and more ingrained into the face. “Some people may need just a few injections, but some may require more treatments, such as laser treatments or a series of smaller procedures, which are going to cost more. Whereas if they came in five years earlier, I may have just been able to use Botox to get the same effect,” she says.
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BOTOX® is the brand name of a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. In large amounts, this toxin can cause a form of muscle paralysis known as botulism, which is usually associated with food poisoning. Even though one of the most serious complications of botulism is paralysis, scientists have discovered a way to use it to human advantage. Small, diluted (weakened) amounts can be directly injected into specific muscles, causing controlled relaxation of the muscles.
Pharmaceutical companies are not without blame. One reason why insurers impose step therapy is high drug prices. Botox, which is made from the toxin of certain bacteria, is much more expensive than other migraine treatments like beta blockers, which are available as generics. Botox costs about $4,800 a year, but with injection fees, treatment can cost up to $10,000 a year. “They could lower the price,” says Loder. “Their goal is to maximize return on investment for their stockholders. That’s not the same thing as maximizing benefits for patients, unfortunately.”
Although one cannot predict exactly who will respond, I find that those patients who are going to respond will note some improvement in headaches following the first set of injections. Repeat injection sets can be performed on the same patient no sooner than every 3 months, as long as a benefit is seen. Most insurers require that you document at least a 50% improvement in the chronic migraine frequency and/or severity for continued coverage. I usually recommend that my migraine patients have a second set of injections before deciding that this treatment modality is of no benefit to them.
Other side effects of BOTOX® and BOTOX® Cosmetic include: dry mouth, discomfort or pain at injection site, tiredness, headache, neck pain, eye problems: double vision, blurred vision, decreased eyesight, drooping eyelids, swelling of eyelids, dry eyes, and drooping eyebrows. In people being treated for urinary incontinence other side effects include: urinary tract infection, painful urination, and/or inability to empty your bladder on your own. If you have difficulty fully emptying your bladder after receiving BOTOX®, you may need to use disposable self-catheters to empty your bladder up to a few times each day until your bladder is able to start emptying again.