Vermonters Show Interest in Botox

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(Host) Last month, the federal government approved the marketing of Botox as a treatment for wrinkles and frown lines, and the drug’s popularity has skyrocketed.

VPR’s Steve Zind set out to discover whether there’s an increased interest in Botox in Vermont.

(Zind) Botulinum toxin type A may not be the prettiest name, but it’s becoming popular with Vermonters who want to look better. Marketed under the name Botox, the drug is the sterile form of the toxin that causes botulism. It’s been used for years to control everything from migraines to twitching eyelids and excessive sweating. Now that Food and Drug Administration has approved the marketing of Botox to eliminate frown lines and wrinkles, it’s attracting the same kind of attention Viagra did when it came out.

Dr. Robert Gordon is a South Burlington dermatologist. Gordon says he’s been treating patients with Botox for four years. He says he’s found it to be safe and effective. He uses Botox to eliminate crow’s feet, frown lines between the eyebrows and wrinkles on the forehead. Botox injections paralyze the facial muscles that cause wrinkles. Gordon says his business is booming thanks to baby boomers:

(Gordon) "Every seven seconds somebody turns fifty in this country. So you have a huge population of baby boomers that have more leisure time, more liquid money. And I think there’s a whole change in our culture, as opposed to my father’s generation where people were not really taking care of themselves…. People want to look better, feel better, take better care of themselves than previous generations."

(Zind) Gordon says since the FDA approval, he’s had an increasing number of inquiries about Botox.

Because it paralyzes certain muscles, Botox won’t allow you to furrow your brow or squint up a nice pair of crow’s feet even if you want to. Gerald Drabyn is a plastic surgeon at Mount Ascutney Hospital. Drabyn says he uses Botox to eliminate wrinkles between the eyebrows and around the eyes. He draws the line at using Botox to get rid of forehead wrinkles.

(Drabyn) "If you do a little too much there, it really gives you kind of a blank look, an inanimate look, if you will."

(Zind) Drabyn says his patients don’t necessarily want to look younger than they are, they simply want to iron out a few wrinkles and do the best with what they have. Draybn says Vermonters’ attitudes toward Botox and other forms cosmetic surgery aren’t much different than those of people elsewhere:

(Drabyn) "Whether you’re from Vermont, New Hampshire or wherever, some people think this is frivolous and something that no one should do and other people are perfectly fine and are a little more open-minded and go ahead and do this. It’s a very subjective thing to have done to yourself."

(Zind) Draybn says a single Botox treatment costs several hundred dollars. Because the effects diminish over time, the drug has to be reinjected every four or five months. The treatments are not covered by insurance. Ill effects from Botox can range from droopy eyelids to difficulty chewing. Any problems disappear once the drug wears off.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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