By Annemarie Gillette, Transform Non-Surgical Manager

"Botox", "botoxing", "botoxed". Whether used as a noun, adjective or verb, it's become a media soundbite to describe the most widely administered non-surgical treatment.

Nothing wrong with that you might think... except when you consider the breadth of line & wrinkle treatments available in relation to patients' understanding of their options.

In addition to the original Botox®  (which has been administered 2 million times in the EU and spawned the whole culture), there are other treatments - all formulated from the same botulinum toxin. All are free from safety issues and fully licensed in the UK, however, how many times have you read in the media about Azzalure, Bocouture or Vistabel? "Katie Price is giving up being bocoutured" is not a story we'll read in the Daily Mail Online anytime soon.

So is this an issue? Absolutely!

Firstly, years of media hype and conditioning around "botox" has resulted in it becoming a colloquial catch-all. Patients go to their clinic for a "botox session" or a "botox top-up". The assumption being they are being treated with Botox®. Very often, they're not.

In a recent survey we commissioned the results were startling;

- 84% of patients had no idea what "brand" of toxin was used in their treatment 

- A similar percentage could not name any toxin other than Botox®

- Only 20% of those that knew of other toxins had a conception of what the differences were. 

This means almost 9 out of 10 patients have no real conception of what they're being treated with. Patients don't ask. Practitioners don't explain. The classic elephant in the room.

Secondly, whilst (again I stress) all safe and licensed, there are differences between the available toxins. Some require refrigeration whilst some don't, the effects of some last longer than others and of course, there's price. There can be marked differences in the cost. Therefore, when confronted with a seemingly great offer like "3 areas of botox for £199" the lack of patient understanding illustrated by our research means patients are possibly paying for a treatment, given the choice, would not have asked for.

Whether done in innocence or fraudulently, no patient should be happy about a clinic misleading them in this way.

Thirdly, all botulinum toxins are prescription only medicines. This means they cannot be advertised or promoted to the public. This leads to  the daft state of affairs in which a newspaper can write about "Botox" culture all they want, but a clinic is not allowed to say it offers Botox®. Instead they are required to describe their patient offering in riddles such as "line and wrinkle reduction treatments".

This all contributes to a situation where patients are susceptible to being mislead and prevented from making an informed choice.

So what can patients do about all this?

Be aware! There's nothing wrong with asking questions and good clinics will happily answer them. There's 3 basics you should feel comfortable with before undertaking any treatment;

  1. what's being injected and why is that appropriate for my treatment?
  2. who will be injecting me - and are they qualified to do so? Botulinum toxins can only be administered by certain healthcare professionals. At Transform these are only doctors or nurse prescribers.
  3. where will my treatment take place? - at Transform, your treatment will take place in a regulated clinical environment.

And to conclude, our favourite piece of Botox trivia...

Q.) How much botulinum toxin is manufactured in an average year to satisfy the world's demand for Botox®?

If you're contemplating say an Olympic swimming pool (or perhaps even more), you'd be well off the mark. In fact, it's just 1g.

Botulinum toxin - it's potent stuff!