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The History of BoNTA

BoNTA (also known as neurotoxins or the brand names Botox, Dysport, and Xeomin) has been around long before it was used in aesthetic and cosmetic procedures. In fact, neurotoxins originated in the 1800’s and have been used for a variety of treatments. While there are many misconceptions around the drug, if used properly, it can have many positive and successful uses.

We decided to walk through the extensive history of BoNTA starting in the 1800’s:

1820’s: Dr. Justinus Kerner studies a batch of improperly prepared blood sausages which were responsible for the death of several Germans. His results were published as the first accurate and complete descriptions of the symptoms of foodborne botulism, or food poisoning.

1890’s: Eighty years after Kerner’s study, Dr. Emile Pierre van Ermengem of Belgium investigated an outbreak of botulism after a case of bad ham at a funeral dinner led to several deaths and polarizations. His investigation led to the discovery of the pathogen Clostridium botulinum, which comes from the latin word for sausage, botulus.

1940’s:  Botulinum toxin (the nerve toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum) is considered one of the deadliest substances and is researched by the US as a possible biological weapon.

1950’s and 1960’s: This is when researchers began to focus on more beneficial aspects of the powerful toxin. Dr. Edward J. Schantz and his colleagues were able to purify botulinum toxin type A into crystalline form. Physiologist Dr. Vernon Brooks discovered that by injecting a small amount of this into a hyperactive muscle, it provided temporary relaxation by blocking the release of acetylcholine from motor nerve endings.

1970’s and 1980’s: Dr. Alan B. Scott, of Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, uses BoNT-A (botulinum toxin type A) to treat strabismus or crossed-eyes. It was also shown to provide temporary relief for patients experiencing facial spasms, neck and shoulder spasms, as well as vocal cord spasms. Soon after, the FDA approved BoNT-A botulinum toxin type A for the treatment of strabismus and blepharospasm (spasms of the eyelid muscle). Allergan gained rights to the drug and renamed it “Botox.”

1990’s: As research continues, more uses of Botox for neurotoxins came to light. Injections were shown to help alleviate symptoms of bladder spasms, writer’s cramp, excessive sweating, even cerebral palsy in kids. An earth-shattering discovery was made purely by accident, when a Canadian ophthalmologist, Dr. Jean Carruthers noticed the softening of brow wrinkles in her  blepharospasm patients were starting to lose their frown lines, or brow wrinkles, as a result of the botulinum toxin injections. Dermatologists immediately took note and started taking advantage of this off-label use.

2000’s and 2010’s: By 2006, Botox had reached the $1 billion mark, with cosmetic uses counting for over half of sales. Even more recently, the drug has been used and Botox gained FDA approval for the treatment of cervical dystonia, or neck and shoulder spasms, and Botox-cosmetic also got the go-ahead for treatment of frown lines. By the end of 2001, Botox sales had reached over $310 million. A year later, it had reached $440 million, making Botox one of Allergan’s most successful pharmaceutical brand launches in history.  A few years after, the drug became approved for the treatment of hyperhidrosis, or excessive underarm sweating, for the treatment of chronic migraines, urinary incontinence, upper limb spasticity, and more.  In 2009, Medicis Pharmaceuticals received FDA approval for their brand of botulinum toxin type A “Dysport”, later acquired by Valeant and now Galderma. Then in 2011, Merz Pharmaceuticals’ neurotoxin brand “Xeomin” received FDA approval as well.

As you can see, BoNTA has a long and extensive history, medically and aesthetically, all stemming from poisonous sausage. It’s amazing to see how far this drug has come, from its origins. Although some people still see the drug as dangerous or having too many side effects, if used properly by a trained professional, BoNTA can have numerous positive effects. It is by far the number one non-surgical cosmetic treatment in the country.