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Botox has modest effect on migraines

Apr 25th, 2012
Staff Writer

Botox injectionBotox, which has become a worldwide sensation for its ability to smooth furrowed brows, has also been touted as a remedy for migraine headaches. But a new study shows that the product’s effects on migraine symptoms are under-whelming.

Botox consists of the botulinum toxin A. While popular as a cosmetic treatment, the Food and Drug Administration has formally approved of its use for treating chronic migraines. The new study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., found that botulinum toxin A injections were not linked to greater benefits in reducing migraine symptoms compared to a placebo injection.

"Migraine and tension-type headaches are common. Although up to 42 percent of adults experience tension-type headaches sometime in their life, most do not seek medical advice,” said the authors of the study, from the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.  “Migraines are less common, with a worldwide prevalence between 8 percent and 18 percent, but are associated with greater disability. Migraine headaches are responsible for $1 billion in medical costs and $16 billion in lost productivity per year in the United States alone.

To reach their conclusions, researchers looked at data from 27 randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials that included more than 5,300 people. The study also found that botulinum toxin A was linked to a greater likelihood of experiencing a droopy eyelid, skin tightness and neck stiffness and pain.

Researchers also looked at four other studies that compared botulinum toxin A with other treatments. Botulinum toxin A was not associated with reduction in headache frequency compared with topiramate or amitriptyline

 "Our analyses suggest that botulinum toxin A may be associated with improvement in the frequency of chronic migraine and chronic daily headaches, but not with improvement in the frequency of episodic migraine, chronic tension-type headaches, or episodic tension-type headaches,” the authors said. “However, the association of botulinum toxin A with clinical benefit was small. Botulinum toxin A was associated with a reduction in the number of headaches per month from 19.5 to 17.2 for chronic migraine and from 17.5 to 15.4 for chronic daily headache.