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.