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Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 12:18 GMT
Botox injections grow in popularity
Sir Cliff Richard
Sir Cliff Richard had his forehead injected with Botox
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By Duncan Bartlett
BBC World Business Report

A fashionable new way of looking young is becoming one of the fastest growing businesses in America.

Botox injections are supposed to reduce the wrinkles on your face and knock years off your appearance but they can cost a thousand dollars a time and need topping-up every few months.

A single vial of Botox costs about $200 and treats four to six patients, who can be charged up to $1000 each - meaning doctors can sometimes sell Botox for 20 times what it costs them.

Botox sales in the US alone were more than $300m last year even though its cosmetic benefits cannot yet be advertised direct to consumers and doctors.

However the Food and Drug Administration's expected to lift that ban later this month.

If the ban is lifted, sales may reach $1bn a year by 2006.

The substance is manufactured by the Californian pharmaceutical company, Allergan.

Price worth paying?

Having six injections of botulinum toxin into your face may sound more like torture than beauty treatment.

But many people are quite prepared to go through the ordeal believing it will make them look more young and beautiful.

I am quite confident that if I just followed up the leads that I have with people asking me to do work I could spend the whole week doing botox

Dr Ross Martin, Laser Aesthetics UK

Botox is the fastest growing cosmetic medical procedure in America with more than a million people having the treatment there last year.

And it is rapidly catching on in other parts of the world, too.

Steve King deputy editor of Men's Health magazine was recently given Botox in London in the name of journalistic research.

"It was like any injection, slightly painful and then when the serum is actually injected... it does sting quite a bit."

Side effects

But there are health risks associated with Botox such as a droopy eyebrow, a weeping eye or problems with facial expressions.

Doctors say they always warn people about potential side effects beforehand.

Dr Ross Martin, who provides cosmetic treatments at Laser Aesthetics UK, said he subcontracts to people around the country as well as having his own clinic.

Botox is just one of the treatments that Dr Martin offers his patients but he believes he there is huge potential for expansion.

"Without marketing myself as a practitioner in any way I am quite confident that if I just followed up the leads that I have with people asking me to do work I could spend the whole week doing botox," he said.

"And incidentally I have heard of people in London who do exactly that."

But with so much money at stake, will doctors really put the best interests of their patients first?

Dr Edward Luce, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, believes this isn't a problem.

"If patients look better and if by implication feel better about themselves, have a better self-esteem with a minimal chance of complications and they fully understand those complications, I see no ethical problem in treating those patients," he said.

Seeing the results?

But does the Botox treatment actually work?

Steve King wasn't impressed by the results of his treatment.

"On reflection I don't think it's worth it because this is now slightly more than three months since I've had it done and my face is more wrinkled now than it was when I started I think," he said.

Mr King went back to the clinic to say he wasn't happy with the results and was given a free top-up.

"It lasted for a few weeks and then wore off again so they have now decided that I may be resistant to the botulism toxin," he said.

Nevertheless, other drugs companies are already formulating their own anti-wrinkle treatments, similar to Botox, in the hope of cashing in on the eternal human dream of looking young.

The BBC's Duncan Bartlett
"Botox sales in the US alone were more than $300m last year"
See also:

06 Jan 02 | Health
Sun, sea, sand and scalpel
17 Dec 01 | Health
A face-lift - the perfect gift
07 Sep 01 | Glasgow 2001
Botox aids Parkinson's sufferers
14 Aug 01 | Health
Botulism: What is it?
13 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Sir Cliff admits youth jabs
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