The many surprising uses of Botox

Allergan, the pharmaceutical company that makes Botox, is in friendly discussions to be acquired by pharma giant Pfizer.

If the merger goes through, it would quite possibly be the biggest of 2015 — Allergan has a market cap of $US117 billion, and Pfizer is worth over $US200 billion.

One of the reasons Allergan is worth so much is Botox, which had more than $US2 billion in sales as of 2013.

One of the most common pharmaceutical products, Botox is currently known as an anti-wrinkle treatment. However, the drug has many other approved medical uses…

Meet the bacterial neurotoxin that went on to be a medicine.

AP Images

While studying food poisoning in the 1800s, German physician Justinus Kerner realised that there were neurological components to the Clostridium botulinum bacteria which causes botulism, an extreme form of food poisoning that causes difficulty swallowing, muscle weakness, paralysis, and even death if left untreated.

From there, Kerner went on to see if there were any therapeutic effects to the neurotoxins that the bacteria gave off.

Botox's most famous use -- treating wrinkles -- started as an 'off-label' use in the 1990s, but was officially approved by the FDA in 2002.

Andreas Rentz/Getty

During the 1990s, while researchers were exploring all the different ways to use Botox, doctors began to use the drug 'off-label' (meaning the FDA has yet to approve it) to smooth out wrinkles temporarily. Botox became so popular that at one point in 1997, the US ran out of its supply, inciting a panic for those using it for off-label wrinkle removal.

Allergan officially got FDA approval for cosmetic Botox to treat glabellar lines (the wrinkles between your eyebrows also known as frown lines) in 2002.

Next, eye doctors tried it to treat a condition that causes abnormal blinking.


Also in the 1980s, eye doctors looked into botulinum toxin's use in another eye condition: blepharospasm, which causes abnormal blinking and tightening of eyes. While treating the eye disorder, the researchers also noticed that wrinkles began to disappear around the injection sites near the eyes. Allergan acquired the rights to botulinum toxin from Scott in 1988, putting it on track for FDA approval and giving it the marketing name Botox.

Botulinum toxin was approved by the FDA to treat strabismus and blepharospasm in 1989.

It also treats extreme underarm sweating.

Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

While experimenting, researchers began to figure out that Botox could be used on other areas of the body, especially areas in danger of extreme sweating.

In 2004, the FDA approved Botox injections for severe axillary hyperhidrosis, otherwise known as severe underarm sweating, that can't be treated with topical treatments. The Botox works by confusing the nerve endings in the armpit, which keeps the sweat glands from feeling the need to produce sweat.

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