Botulinum toxin – poison or drug?

Not so long ago it became known that the American biopharmaceutical company AbbVie became the lucky owner of the Irish manufacturer of drugs Allergan. According to the representative of AbbVie, this acquisition will allow the company to focus on the development of new drugs without compromising the business. Allergan’s portfolio includes drugs for the treatment of ophthalmic, neurological and gastrointestinal diseases. However, the most famous drug of the company is Botox.

According to GRLS, Allergan Botox was registered in Russia in 2015 and is a reference drug. (Read more about reference and interchangeable drugs here ). The drug belongs to the pharmacological group of muscle relaxants and is used for the treatment of various spastic diseases and in cosmetology.

By chemical nature, the botulinum component of type A, which is part of Botox has two protein chains (heavy and light). The heavy chain is responsible for the penetration of the toxin molecule inside the neuron, and the light one – directly for the violation of the pulse transmission from the neuron to the muscle cell, resulting in a pronounced muscle relaxation. The recovery period of muscle contractility is about 12 weeks.

For the first time botulinum toxin became the subject of discussion in the nineteenth century (in Russia – Sengbusch in 1818), when describing the characteristic symptoms of the disease called botulism (“botulus” – from Latin “sausage”), which is caused by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Clostridia mainly live in soil and animals, from where they can get into food and then into the human body. Botultotoxin is considered to be the strongest poison known to man. According to estimates, 1 g of crystalline toxin contains 1012 lethal doses of toxin.

Despite such frightening information, Homo sapiens learned to use botulinum toxin for their own purposes. In the 70-ies of the twentieth century, American ophthalmologist Alan Scott began to test botulinum toxin in patients suffering from blepharospasm (involuntary eye clamp). Later, the areas of use of the toxin began to expand, and doctors noticed an interesting side effect — wrinkles in the areas of injection on the face began to disappear. However, Botox for cosmetology was approved by the FDA only in 2002 (Botox Cosmetic, Allergan).

On the Russian market, Botox can compete with the following drugs:

  1. “Botulax” (Rep. South Korea)
  2. “RELEATOX” (Russia)
  3. “Dysport” (France)
  4. “Xeomin” (Germany)
  5. “Lantox” (China)


  1. Медицинская микробиология, вирусология и иммунология: Учебник для студентов медицинских вузов / Под ред. А.А. Воробьева. – 2-е изд., испр. и доп. – М.: ООО «Медицинское информационное агентство» , 2012. – 704 с.: ил.,  табл.