In 1820, Justinus Kerner, a small-town German medical officer and romantic poet, gave the first complete description of clinical botulism based on extensive clinical observations of so-called “sausage poisoning”. Following experiments on animals and on himself, he concluded that the toxin acts by interrupting signal transmission in the somatic and autonomic motor systems, without affecting sensory signals or mental functions. He observed that the toxin develops under anaerobic conditions, and can be lethal in minute doses. His prescience in suggesting that the toxin might be used therapeutically earned him recognition as the pioneer of modern botulinum toxin therapy.
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.
Formation of neutralizing antibodies to botulinum toxin type A may reduce the effectiveness of BOTOX treatment by inactivating the biological activity of the toxin. The critical factors for neutralizing antibody formation have not been well characterized. The results from some studies suggest that BOTOX injections at more frequent intervals or at higher doses may lead to greater incidence of antibody formation. The potential for antibody formation may be minimized by injecting with the lowest effective dose given at the longest feasible intervals between injections.
Contrary to popular belief, the bacteria that causes botulism, clostridium botulinum, is not part of the treatment, nor are six of the seven neurotoxins it secretes. The only substance used in Botox injections, botulinum toxin A, is carefully extracted, purified, and standardized into FDA-approved doses. Plus, the dosage is so small, it can't get beyond the muscle tissue it's injected into, meaning there's little if any chance for Botox to reach the bloodstream.
If going back for additional treatments three or four times a year sounds like a lot of treatments, the good news is that the more Botox treatments you get, the fewer Botox units you'll need. With each repeat Botox session, the frontalis muscle and other facial muscles surrounding Botox injection sites get a little weaker and become "trained" to not contract.
The safety and efficacy of onabotulinumtoxinA for CM was demonstrated in the pivotal phase III Research Evaluating Migraine Prophylaxis Therapy (PREEMPT) trial. In this trial, patients were treated every 12 weeks whether or not their headaches had returned to baseline levels and the primary outcome period was after two treatment cycles. At baseline, these patients had more than 19 headache days, and after two treatment cycles, their headaches had been reduced by 8 to 9 days per 28 days. The responder rate analysis of the study population shows that about 25% of patients improved by 75% in terms of a reduction of migraine days. In my practice, I usually do three cycles 12 weeks apart, and only if there is no change in headache frequency after this, do I change treatments. In the pivotal trials, the first statistical separation from placebo occurred in the first 4 weeks. There is a small subgroup of patients who fail to respond to the first two treatments and only start to respond after the third treatment.4-10
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.”
Still, Botox's use for depression raises a question that confounds some researchers. In some cases, how Botox works is evident: the toxin can block the signals between nerves and muscles, which is why it can help calm an overactive bladder, say, or a twitching eye, or the facial muscles that make wrinkles more apparent. In other cases, however (with migraines as well as with depression), scientists are flummoxed. They may have noticed that the drug works for a given condition, but they aren't always sure why--in sciencespeak, they don't know what the mechanism is.