DOHA-HealthTalk: Botox uses keep expanding in the medical field

The uses for Botox (Botulinum toxin type A, the anti-wrinkle shot from Allergan) continue to expand. Just recently, in August 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Botox for the treatment of overactive bladder syndrome (when the cause is due to damage to the nervous system). Earlier in 2010, the FDA had already given the green light for migraine treatment, excessive blinking, excessive sweating and muscle spasms. This crucial seal of approval has catapulted the use of the drug far beyond its original purpose as an anti-wrinkle agent.

The product is no longer limited to the dulling of fine lines. According to mounting research, Botox has also been proven to alleviate and prevent migraine headaches; reduce uncontrolled blinking; reduce neck muscle spasms; decrease excessive underarm sweating, and decrease the stiffness associated with elbow and hand spasticity. This is an amazing leap from a mere cosmetic based treatment to mainstream medical usage.

The Allergan Company (company that produces Botox) was reported as saying the sales of Botox for migraine relief and for other medical reasons will soon exceed the sales of the drug as an anti-wrinkle agent. This may be in part due to the studies that found Botox affect the person’s ability to read/perceive the facial emotions of others. It seems Botox may find their benefit to certain medical conditions outweighing their cosmetic success.

Dr Ahmed Makki, Consultant Plastic Surgeon at the Surgicenter in Doha agreed to discuss this expanded role of Botox with me, earlier this week. Makki explained that he, personally, had been using Botox for over 12 years in his clinic. He felt strongly that Botox, used in the right dosage, was still a very effective tool in reducing wrinkles. However, he agreed the many other uses of Botox were becoming increasingly popular.

According to Makki: “Botox is a very safe and effective drug and there is usually a high degree of satisfaction associated with the drug, whether as an anti-wrinkle agent or for medicinal purposes. The key to using Botox successfully lies in the skill and training of the health professional administering the drug. The lowest possible dose, required to achieve good results, should be used. That is why it is crucial that the person giving such injections should be a medical doctor or plastic surgeon.”

Makki added; “Recent studies have shown that if we lower the doses of Botox, we get better results. This is especially true when used to reduce facial wrinkles. The lower dose allows the person to still have facial expressions and yet achieve the desired result. Again, that is why only medical professionals, trained in this field should be allowed to give such injections.”

When asked if Botox for migraines was popular in Qatar, Makki responded: “Oh yes, we have many patients coming in every 4-6 months for relief of migraines. In addition, we see several patients for the treatment of excessive sweating. Our clients are very happy with the results.”

Well, with all the new studies and government approvals Botox is definitely getting the attention of the medical community and the general public also, for that matter.

The use of Botox for muscle spasticity is now an accepted line of treatment for physically handicapped people who suffer from spastic conditions. I have personally seen the benefits in that area with my own daughter who has mild Cerebral Palsy.

So the uses of this amazing drug have expanded, and many people are already benefiting from the product. My only cautionary tip would be what Makki stressed in our discussion on the topic: “Make sure the person administering the drug is a medical professional with specific training in the use of Botox. Do not take any unnecessary risks with your health or the health of a loved one!”