Botox: We Suspected It All Along

Laurie and Debbie say:

You know what you should never have to ask your doctor? Here’s one answer:

“Is this drug poisonous?”

We have been suspicious of Botox since it came to our attention as the miracle cure for wrinkles. For those who don’t know, Botox (as it sounds) is derived from botulism toxin. If you’re old enough to remember your parents warning you against eating from cans which had swollen or become mis-shapen, that was fear of botulism, a deadly disease. Small injections of Botox under the skin kill enough skin to prevent wrinkling as you age. The treatments, frequently given in the forehead area, last about three months and then need to be repeated. They also make it impossible to lower your eyebrows.

Our fears, it seems, were founded:

In a public alert issued Friday, the Food and Drug Administration said Botox, along with a similar drug called Myobloc, has been linked to life-threatening symptoms such as strained breathing and severe difficulty in swallowing, which can lead to a form of pneumonia. The FDA is advising doctors to monitor patients for such reactions while it decides whether to strengthen warnings on the drugs’ labels.

The article is careful to point out that the deaths and serious hospitalizations have been from use of the drug to treat cerebral palsy. It is also used successfully to treat migraines. In the case of a serious illness, sometimes it’s appropriate to take (or even authorize your child to take) a drug with potentially dangerous side effects.

“FDA now has evidence that similar, potentially life-threatening systemic toxicity from the use of botulinum toxin products can also result after local injection in patients with other underlying conditions,” the agency report said. The serious symptoms were seen “following treatment of a variety of conditions using a wide range of botulinum toxin doses.”

Botox’s manufacturer, Allergan, Inc., is (of course) downplaying the results. The main thing we would note here is that this is the Bush administration FDA sounding nervous: a denatured, understaffed agency with little humanpower and less clout. We can assume that this is the tip of the iceberg: scarier statistics have either been buried so far, will follow soon, or both.

In researching this post, we discovered that aside from its anti-wrinkle possibilities, Botox is also prescribed for “severe underarm sweating.” We sure hope it isn’t being used for “male genital odor.”

All kidding aside, we hope this doesn’t turn into as scary a story as we think it might. And, since your doctors are certainly not going to tell you that what they want to inject under your skin is a dangerous poison, always ask.

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8 thoughts on “Botox: We Suspected It All Along

  1. While the use of Botox for cosmetic purpose causes me to roll my eyes so far back in my head they practically spin like the cherries on a slot machine, this is really bad news for people like my friend who has CP, and for whom Botox injections into her spastic leg muscles are just about all that are keeping her mobile.

    Many drugs are dangerous poisons – most chemotherapeutic agents, for instance. I can’t weep for those who poison themselves in the quest for eternal youth, but for people like my friend, who have so few other options, I do.

  2. “Many of the most serious reactions – deaths and hospitalizations – occurred among children treated for cerebral palsy-associated limb spasticity”

    “Allergan said serious symptoms in the cases discussed by the FDA usually occurred when patients received higher doses, rather than the small amounts used in cosmetic injections.”

    Yes, it looks as if those most affected are going to be the ones who have it for reasons other than cosmetic treatment, and children in particular.

  3. I think the effects you are talking about are from injecting it into spastic neck muscles — from my memory of reading some articles a little while back. Thus the difficulty swallowing & risks of pneumonia.

    I’m still glad I said no to the botox injections for spasticity.

  4. I have to guess from the tenor of the comments that we appeared to be saying that nobody needs Botox, or something to that effect. Of course, it is a terrible thing that this danger arises in therapeutic use of this or any drug, and yes, it seems likely that the doses are higher in the large muscles. I feel terrible for anyone who relies on or gets relief from Botox and has to make a hard choice.

    At the same time, I still think it’s very likely that there are more nasty (and even dangerous) side effects from the cosmetic usage than we are aware of.

  5. You don’t have to ask your doctor if Botox is a poison: “Botox” is the brand name of botulinum toxin type A. That’s toxin, as in a poison. It’s one of the most toxic naturally occuring substances we know of.

    As other people have pointed out, there are therapeutic uses for some poisons, but using it for cosmetic purposes has always struck me as completely insane.

  6. Huge duh! It’s SUPPOSED to be poisonous. It works by killing nerves. That’s how it keeps you “young looking”–by making sure you can’t move selective muscles in your face. Dave Barry put it best years ago:”If someone said they were injecting botoulism in my face unless I gave up my secrets, I would talk faster than Richard Simmons on speed.” Full-grown, educated women who take botox for cosmetic reasons should have known this.

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