Botox Celebrates an Anniversary

Ten-year anniversary of FDA approval of Botox. (Thinkstock)Ten years ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Botox to treat frown lines between eyebrows. But by the time the FDA gave Botox its blessing, the injectable treatment had been around, in one form or another, for decades.

"Botox" has become shorthand for explaining why the foreheads of certain Hollywood stars never move, but the treatment's origin can be traced all the way back to the 1820s. That's when German doctor Justinus Kerner identified a toxin in spoiled sausages that would come to be known as (drumroll, please) "botulism."

Kerner speculated that small doses of the toxin might be helpful in treating nerve disorders. To test his theory he even injected it into himself. Dedication, thy name is Kerner.

Of course, that was just the discovery. It took a lot longer for Botox (in one form or another) to hit the mainstream. It began to hit the big time in the 1960s, when a San Francisco Bay Area eye doctor named Alan Scott injected a related toxin called botulinum into monkeys to see whether it helped relax the muscles that cause crossed eyes.

From that point on, we were off to the races. In 1978, Scott got FDA approval to test the drug on humans. Scott published several studies in which he wrote that Botox also temporarily helped patients suffering from facial, neck, and shoulder spasms.

Of course, helping people with pain is great, but you know what's even better? Making them look younger. In the 1990s, Jean Carruthers, a Canadian ophthalmologist, started noticing that her patients were beginning to "lose their frown lines." She and her husband, a dermatologist, published a study and the world took note.

Carruthers is the one who discovered that the injections got rid of wrinkles, but she and her husband never got a patent for the procedure. While they didn't get filthy rich from the discovery, they can take comfort that their finding helped to change the face of Hollywood.