A few years ago the FDA officially approved Botox for use in migraine- and since then anyone who walks into the doctor’s office is being offered these injections. Unofficially, Botox has been used for the treatment of migraines (and many other medical disorders) for many years. The question is does Botox work for migraine?
For the consumer, it should be understood that just because Botox has been approved by the FDA does not mean it works. The FDA works with the pharmaceutical industry – because business is business and there is a lot of money involved.
There have been a few clinical trials evaluating the role of Botox for migraine headaches. However, the results have not all been positive. Two large studies looked at the effects of Botox on migraine and revealed that the drug decreased the intensity of headaches and shortened the duration of headaches on a monthly basis. The people who received Botox for migraine also reported a better quality of life, less disability and functioned better in everyday life. However, even in this large study, not all patients had headache relief and some had no benefit.
However, one other large study showed that Botox did diddly-squat (meaning it did nothing).
Like all things in medicine, nothing is ever cured with one Botox injection. Everyone requires a series of shots. No one really knows the exact site of injection for the migraine. While some physicians perform injections on the affected side, other doctors simply inject around the entire skull (Remember, the more the injections, the more money the physician makes).
While some people do find good relief, many do not. In those who find migraine relief, the effect may last several weeks or months. Botox is only a temporary solution and repeat injections are required.
After the injections, there may be some bruising which resolves in a few days. For some lucky individuals the wrinkles around the forehead may also disappear at the same time. However, some physicians charge extra if you have migraines and wrinkles.
The injections are only slightly painful but nowhere as bad as the migraine headache.
If you have migraine attacks which has no responded to any medications, and if you have money, Botox may be worth a try. For those who have no money, then it perhaps one may try some of the newer anti-convulsant drugs. Either way, know all the pros and cons about Botox. The majority of physicians who administer these injections do it for one purpose- to make more money for them.
Botox and Money
Just last year alone, unapproved use of Botox for headaches brought in close to $50 million for Allergan, the manufacturer of the product.
For headaches, one has to inject a minimum of 100-200 units. Each 100 units cost about $650. Most people need anywhere from 100-300 units. The lower dose of Botox does not always produce consistent relief in headaches.
Experts recommend that Botox should be used when other migraine medications have failed. However, Botox injections are not covered by Medicare and most insurance companies. Moreover, Botox injections are not cheap. The cost can vary from $600-$1,400 every 2-3 months which is not a trivial amount considering the state of the economy.
Allergan has sponsored most of the studies on Botox and thus, the consumer should always be weary of bias. From the past, every time pharmaceutical companies sponsor clinical studies and pay physicians to conduct studies, the results are all positive (the negative results are hidden).
Time will tell if Botox is an effective treatment for migraine but one thing is for sure- both Allergan and physicians are already making a lot of profit from the injections.