Dear Dr. Wu,
I am a mom who loves her Botox injections but I recently read that a study found that some 17 Botox users died as a result of using the drug. Is this true? What are the details? They give Botox shots at my salon — now I’m afraid to get them there.
Is this generally safe? Do you give Botox shots to your patients? Have you ever had it done to yourself? Have you ever had a bad experience with Botox — either personally or in use with patients? I’ve noticed a lot of stars are very open about using Botox now. I even saw Lisa Rinna in People magazine, getting shots before the Oscars. But I don’t want my son to lose a mom just because I want to smooth out my wrinkles! Should I reconsider Botox?
Thanks for your help, Dr Wu!
Dr. Jessica Wu says,
There’s no doubt that Botox Cosmetic treatments for wrinkles have become very popular. So when recent news reports suggested that several people had died from Botox, many of my patients were alarmed and called my office. These reports were triggered by a consumer group called Public Citizen, which claims that 16 people died from Botox treatments between 1997 to 2006, including one fatality from cosmetic use. The group is also calling on the FDA to require stricter warning labels on Botox.
First, I think it’s important to understand the basis for these claims. As I explained to my patients, although Botox is commonly used for cosmetic reasons (to smooth wrinkles), it is also used by doctors to treat people with serious neurological or muscular disorders. Between 1997 to 2006, there were 15 reports of deaths in patients who had received Botox for these therapeutic (non-cosmetic) reasons.
All of these patients received much higher doses of Botox than those typically used to smooth wrinkles, and all of them suffered from pre-existing neurological conditions or other illnesses. One individual passed away from complications of pneumonia. Although this patient had received Botox Cosmetic for wrinkles two months before her illness, the doctors involved in this patient’s care concluded that Botox was not related to, nor did it cause the patient’s death. Since the initial news reports, Public Citizen has acknowledged that this case was not related to cosmetic Botox use. In fact, there has never been a documented case of death caused by cosmetic use of Botox.
Nevertheless, these reports are a reminder that Botox is still a medical procedure and should be performed by an experienced, board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon in a medical setting. A salon is not an appropriate location to receive any medical treatment, including cosmetic injections. The person giving injections at the salon or spa may not have treated anyone before you, and how do you know what’s in the syringe or where the needle came from? I recently treated a young woman who went to a spa for lip injections, and nearly lost her lower lip because the product was placed incorrectly into a blood vessel. The spa sent the woman home with an ice pack. If she had not seen a doctor the next day, she would have suffered severe scarring and deformity of her lip.
As a dermatologist, in my office I perform Botox for cosmetic reasons. When done correctly, it’s very safe and effective. Since the FDA first approved Botox in 1989, the cosmetic treatment has had a safe 19 year track record, and has been used on more than one-million Americans. I have personally used Botox and treated patients with it since 1996. My patients are very pleased (and so am I!) and I have never had a serious adverse event.
Dr. Jessica Wu
Dr. Jessica Wu, a graduate of Harvard Medical School, runs a private practice in Los Angeles and also serves as Clinical Instructor of Dermatology at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. She has appeared on Inside Edition, EXTRA and Lifetime Channel for Women.
Check out the Dr. Jessica Wu Cosmeceuticals product line at www.drjessicawu.com