Over 45 years ago in San Francisco, an ophthalmologist named Dr. Alan Scott sought a cure for crossed eyes. By the mid-’60s the good doctor realized that if he could just weaken the muscles that caused the crossing that he’d have the solution. Several attempts with various paralytic potions failed and then, one day, he got lucky. A biochemist who’d been working with a purified strain of botulism (as a potential military biological weapon) sent him some to try and it worked.
Dr. Scott named the drug Oculinum and got it FDA approved to treat those with crossed eyes. In 1991, the miracle med was sold to Allergan for $9 million. They changed the name to BOTOX Cosmetic, secured some of their own FDA approvals, began marketing it as a wrinkle paralyzer and we all lived happily, furrow-free, ever after.
In less than 20 years since it’s been FDA approved for the “treatment of glabellar frown lines,” Botox has become a verb used in the vernacular with astonishing regularity, right up there with others like “TiVo” or “Xerox.” But, because it’s so famous for its wrinkle reducing effects, Botox’s (many) other uses have been overshadowed.
With six FDA approvals for wide-ranging uses (and an estimated 90 patent applications pending), thanks to Botox, Allergan rakes in an astounding $1.3 billion worldwide on both medical and cosmetic uses. “The therapeutic [uses] will end up being bigger than the cosmetic [ones] because there are some big unmet medical needs there, says David E. I. Puyott, Allergan’s CEO, of the seemingly limitless future of the product.
So, if it’s not just for wrinkles anymore, what else is Botox being used for — both legitimately with FDA approval and “off label” with doctors experimenting in their own practices? From helping with benign enlarged prostates to working on several pancreatic disorders, Botox, as the “New York Times” says, is a crossed eye medication that can be “serially reincarnated for other applications.”
Let’s take a look at the most promising ones as well as the ones we’d raise our eyebrows at — if we could.
1. Migraine Headache Help (FDA-approved)
Last October in the U.S., Allergan received the go-ahead from the Food and Drug Administration to treat patients suffering chronic migraines with Botox. (Britain had it approved a few months earlier.)
Traditionally, migraine headaches have been difficult, if not impossible, to treat in some patients. They’re typically accompanied by a variety of unwelcome symptoms including dizziness, nausea, sensitivity to light and vomiting. And, while doctors remain uncertain as to exactly how Botox injections (typically injected into seven areas around the temples, forehead, neck and shoulders) really work to ease the symptoms, the prevailing theory is that it prevents pain signals from reaching nerve endings.
Details: 31 injections into seven areas every three months at a cost of $1,000-$2,000 makes this quite expensive — although, now that it’s been FDA approved, insurance carriers are likely to cover it.
Scoop: In an interview with the “New York Times” last fall, Radall Stanicky, a global research VP at the investment firm Goldman Sachs said, “The cost is prohibitive for some, but, given the debilitating challenges of having migraines more than 15 days a month, if Botox can cut down on that, it’s clearly going to be a big opportunity.”
2. Help with a Gummy Smile (Not FDA-approved)
A “gummy” smile, one that’s characterized by a smile that shows too much of the gums, usually results from “excessive lip elevation” when the upper lip rises too far above the upper teeth when smiling. Injecting Botox into the upper lip weakens the upper lip’s retractor muscles so that it won’t raise as high and your smile will seem better-balanced.
Details: Can be done in about five minutes. Usually lasts for four to six months. Costs range from $200-$300.
Scoop: On his website, Dr. Aharonov, a cosmetic surgeon in Beverly Hills says, “This technique is not for the novice Botox injector. Too much, and your lip won’t raise enough, too little and you will need more, or if injected asymmetrically, you might have a funny asymmetrical smile.”
3. Hyperhidrosis Help – Excessive sweating (FDA approved)
You don’t hear about it much, but for nearly seven years now, Botox has been approved for “severe underarm sweating.” (The technical term is axillary hyperhidrosis.) It has, in fact, been proven to alleviate symptoms of all sorts of sweating, from underarms to hands and feet by blocking the release of the chemical responsible for stimulating the sweat glands.
The product is simply injected — using an ultra-fine needle — just under the skin where the sweat glands rest. (Note: Botox injections don’t cure the condition, they just treat it for up to seven months.)
Details: While some health insurers cover the cost of these medical treatments, when you’re paying out of pocket you can expect underarms to cost up to $1,000 and palms to be about $2,000.
Scoop: Many patients have said that while it works like a charm, getting injections into the palms is extremely painful. As a result, many physicians offer nerve blocks, ice, pressure and topical anesthetics to help alleviate most of the discomfort.
4. Botox “boob job” (not FDA approved)
Would you like to have perkier breasts but dread the idea of going under the knife? According to celebrity dermatologist Patricia Wexler, who’s been performing the procedure for several years, a Botox boob job could be just the solution for you. (Note: This won’t enlarge the size of your breasts, just give you a lift.)
The technique being followed is as such: Botox is injected into the pectoralis minor muscle, which is tucked away beneath the “pecs” and is responsible for making you stoop forward with shoulders down and hunched forward. As Dr. Karol Gutowski explains on BettyConfidential.com, “The theory is if you prevent that muscle from doing its job, the opposing muscle on the upper back — the rhomboid — will pull the shoulder back, giving the patient a breast lift”.
For her part, Dr. Wexler told Reuters that “When it is asked for, people are very pleased with it. Some people never want scalpel procedures and you can actually get a significant lift with something like this.” She also notes that sometimes patients seek the treatment for a specific outing, “Some people want it for a special occasion when they are wearing a strapless gown and no bra is acceptable.”
Details: The procedure, which is typically recommended for smaller breasted women, costs roughly $1,700-$2,000 and is reported to last up to four months.
Scoop: Accessing the pectoralis minor may be tricky because it’s obstructed by the bigger pectoral muscles so practitioners may be leery of doing the procedure.
5. Hair Rejuvenation (not FDA approved)
Hair loss, thinning hair, no matter what you call it, for the millions affected by it, is not a cheery topic and it’s also not something to be taken lightly.
The psychological effects of losing one’s hair are profound and the public’s demand for a solution has driven pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies to experiment with all sorts of out of the box thinking in the hopes of landing the big kahuna — the “cure” for baldness.
Dr. Simon Ourian, a Los Angeles-based cosmetic surgeon, thinks that he’s stumbled on to what could be the next big hair loss hope: Botox. Following a series of chemotherapy, his mother began to get terrible headaches. Her dutiful son injected her scalp with the toxin to help alleviate the pain and, what do you know, she began to re-grow hair that she’d lost during her cancer treatments.
In the years since his accidental discovery, Dr. Ourian has incorporated his combination of Botox and special hair-growth vitamins into the menu of services offered at his Beverly Hills clinic. What’s generated a lot of excitement over Botox as a baldness treatment is the assertion that it can help actually re-grow hair — a claim that none of the leading remedies like Rogaine and Propecia, which solely prevent further hair loss, can make.
Details: The doctor assesses (and charges) patients on a case by case basis at his Beverly Hills Epione cosmetic medical center.
Scoop: Despite the positive results thus far, Dr. Ourian’s website is quick to point out that, “his findings are anecdotal and that proper clinical trials still need to be done.”
So there you have it, five other surprising uses for BOTOX.
Information from this article comes from TotalBeauty.com.