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The History of Botox®

Botox® cosmetic is derived from the toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum which, in high quantities, can cause botulism.  Botulism is a form of food poisoning that was first described in detail in 1793 after an outbreak of food poisoning from contaminated blood sausage in Germany.  The illness became known as "botulism" coined from "botulus," the Latin word for sausage.  In 1897, Emile van Ermengem studied an outbreak of botulism at a gathering of 34 amateur musicians who had consumed raw, salted ham.  Three of these individuals went on to develop progressive paralysis resulting in death.  Van Ermengem isolated the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, and he determined that the disease was caused by intoxication rather than infection.

In the 1920s, the process of developing and isolating the toxins produced by Clostridium botulinum began, and by 1946, the type A toxin was isolated (BTX-A).  Medical use of the toxin began in the 1950s and advanced significantly in the 1970s.  Initial studies were done in the extraocular muscles of monkeys, and in the late 1970s, studies were attempted in human beings.  In 1979, limited approval was granted for the use of BTX-A in strabismus (imbalanced eye muscles), and in 1985, the use was expanded to blepharospasm (spasm of the eyelids).  In 1989, Dr. Alan Scott's company, Oculinum, Inc., was acquired by Allergan Inc., the product was renamed Botox®, and the FDA approved its use in strabismus, blepharospasm, and hemifacial spasm.

In the late 1980s, Dr. Jean Carruthers made the observation that many of her patients who were treated for blepharospasm had improvement in the frown lines.  Following this observation, she and her husband Dr. Alastair Carruthers undertook systematic studies of the toxin for cosmetic usage.

In 2002, Botox® was approved by the FDA for the use in glabellar rhytids (the frown lines between the brows, also known as the "elevens"), and since then, over 11.8 million cosmetic treatments have been performed, making it the most popular physician-administered aesthetic procedure performed in the United States.

In October of 2010, Botox® gained an additional FDA approval for the treatment of chronic migraines.

To learn more about how Botox® cosmetic works, click here.