Newsweek on Monday published A New Reason to Frown, which reported on the flap over a recent Botox study from Italian researchers. In the study, scientists found that some botulinum neurotoxin type A that was injected in lab rats migrated into the brain steams of some of those animals.

The study's authors were careful in stating the results were inconclusive and required additional study. Well, the mainstream media (MSM) took it as a warning to humans who use Botox injections for cosmetic purposes. 

Newsweek opted to follow the lead of most of the MSM, producing a story that relies heavily on scare tactics and inflammatory verbiage, as opposed to balanced reporting.

To wit, the second paragraph unfolds as follows: 

In a reversal of the usual sequence in science, researchers have discovered, after millions of people have received the drug, something fundamental about how Botox can act. Contrary to what turned up in preclinical testing, botulinum toxin can travel along neurons from the injection site into the brain, at least in lab animals. Researchers at Italy's Institute of Neuroscience injected rats and mice with botulinum neurotoxin A in doses comparable to those used in people.

Irresponsible journalism must be habit-forming. The author of the Newsweek piece, Sharon Begley, is a well-known science writer who sadly skirts the whole story behind the Italian study and pretty much ignores the industry's response to the controversy. 

Instead of taking the opportunity to clear up the issue of aesthetic uses of Botox versus unapproved, untested uses of the drug, she attempts to incite the public's fear of medicine, doctors, Big Pharma, and the government agencies that are charged with protecting the public. 

In 2005 scientists at the [FDA] analyzed 1,437 such "adverse events" between 1989, when Botox was approved for eye spasms, and 2003. Most came from people who got Botox to erase their wrinkles, but the 28 deaths occurred in people who had received it for medical purposes. The FDA didn't do much in response, but since then it has been getting new reports of serious adverse reactions in people receiving Botox, and launched a safety review. An analysis of the FDA's database by the advocacy group Public Citizen found 16 deaths from Botox or Myobloc. Most involved children with serious diseases like cerebral palsy, who got the injections for muscle spasms (an unapproved, though legal, use). But the agency has "evidence that [serious reactions and even death] can happen in a broader population," said the FDA's Russell Katz. "Is it possible with cosmetic use? Possibly."

Let's put aside the issue of why the FDA would put Katz in front of the mike to be intreviewed for any publication. It is the author, Begley, who continues the "oooo-scary" tone of her story, implying that the preclinicals of Botox missed important testing that might adversely affect humans who use Botox for aesthetic reasons.

Begley then rounds out the article with a few curiously reorganized quotes from Katz:

The FDA's Katz said that people getting Botox for cosmetic reasons should "make their own personal best judgment about this" and "be aware that there's the potential for" the neurotoxin to spread. 

Read the article here

As an antidote to the "media frenzy" that has erupted around this issue, I take you now to the [removed]Dermasmooth Clinic Blog[/removed], in which Susan Davoodifar, MD, wrote:

The findings of the study need to be placed into perspective:

  • A laboratory preparation of botulinum toxin was used in the study, not the popular anti-wrinkle drug Botox Cosmetics sold by Allergan. Data suggests that different preparations react differently in laboratories and clinical practice.

  • The anatomy of rats is very different from the anatomy of humans and the findings can not be directly translated.

  • Millions of Botox treatments have been administered since 1987 without any known long term side effects.

  • The study is not conclusive and contradicts previous findings, but as a medical doctor I always support additional research to get conclusive research data.