Botulinum toxin has undergone a number of reincarnations over the years, from a contaminant in improperly prepared foods, to a laboratory research tool to probe nerve-muscle communication, to a drug to treat problems involving eyes, muscles, and excessive sweating to, most famously, a drug that combats wrinkles for cosmetic purposes.
During the course of injecting Botox for eye disorders in 1987, Vancouver ophthalmologist Jean Carruthers and her dermatologist husband Alastair accidentally noted that it relaxed the muscles and softened the frown lines between the eyebrows, which gives the face an angry or tired look.
The Carruthers never patented nor cashed in on their billion-dollar discovery, but Allergan, the Botox patent holder, did. Botox Cosmetic (botulinum toxin type A or onabotulinumtoxin A), manufactured by Allergen, was approved for this use in 2002.
The benefits are temporary, and repeat injections are needed every four months, at a cost of between $400 and $1,000 per treatment session, to retain or regain that youthful appearance. Expenses notwithstanding, Botox injections are the most commonly performed non-surgical medical procedure.