Allergan Inc.'s Botox, given in the doses used to reduce facial wrinkles, may stop certain kinds of migraines that patients describe as crushing or "eye-popping" more than other types, a study found.
Patients who responded to Botox reported their migraines were reduced to fewer than one day a month from almost seven, according to a study of 18 people published Monday in the Archives of Dermatology. The researchers said people with migraine pain called "imploding" - that felt like a vise was tightened around their heads - were helped more than those whose migraine pain felt "explosive."
Medical trials have reported inconsistent data on how much Botox helps reduce migraine pain, the researchers said. Irvine, Calif.-based Allergan has filed for approval with the Food and Drug Administration to market Botox as a treatment for chronic migraines, which affect about three million Americans, company spokeswoman Crystal Muilenburg said.
"This could revolutionize the way people with these migraines are treated," said one author of the study, Jeffrey Dover, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. "It was the imploding headaches that responded and the ocular headaches," he said. "They required little to no pain medication for headaches in the months after their Botox treatment."
The study was funded in part by Allergan and the National Institutes of Health.
Injection Botox, a purified form of the poison botulinum, is administered by doctors. It is approved as a short-term treatment to smooth wrinkles in facial skin by temporarily paralyzing the muscles underneath. Americans underwent almost 2.5 million Botox procedures in 2008, the latest year for which data are available, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
Researchers don't know how Botox works to stop migraine pain, said study co-author Rami Burstein, a professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School. The drug may block the signals in sensory nerves located on the outside of the head that may cause the migraines called imploding and ocular, he said.
Botox cosmetic treatments cost $700 to $1,000 on average for one session, said Dover. Migraine sufferers would need about four sessions a year for as long as their headaches return, he said.