It’s hard to imagine being disappointed when someone hands you $8 million dollars. But for San Francisco opthamologist Dr. Alan Scott, several million dollars now seems like chicken scratch compared to the billions of dollars he could have made if he had just held on to his discovery for a little longer.

It’s been 10 years since the Food and Drug Administration first approved Botox to treat facial wrinkles – but it didn’t start off as a modern-day miracle drug.

Dr. Scott first stumbled upon Botox while searching for a cure for crossed eyes. He found that cure in Botox, which would later turn into the “it” drug of the 21st century. But he didn’t know that yet.

“You never know what’s going to happen the first time you do these things,” he said. “But I really wasn’t tuned into the practical, and valuable, aspect of that.”

It turns out that Dr. Scott’s Botox discovery was VERY valuable. His little drug wasdn’t just correcting crossed eyes and glaucoma, it was erasing wrinkles.

Botox is actually derived from a purified and essentially harmless neurotoxin that causes the disease Botulism. It works by temporarily paralyzing the facial muscles that cause wrinkles, such as the vertical lines between the eyebrows, crow’s feet, and the horizontal lines across the forehead. Results take about one week to take effect and last three to four months.

Why has Botox become so popular? Well, in short, because it works. Botox can be overused or misused and look terrible. But when it is used correctly and conservatively, it creates a look of youthfulness that is undetectable without the need for surgery, high costs or lengthy recovery times.

As they say, everything in moderation. Problems with Botox arise when patients start believing that more of a good thing is better. In this case, a little bit of a good thing is good. More is not necessarily better.

Sure, it has become the drug of choice for many in Hollywood, but Botox has moved way beyond the glitz and glamour of the movie industry. Since its FDA approval for cosmetic use ten years ago, Botox has  become mainstream. It’s now the number one cosmetic medical treatment in the country, with nearly six million procedures last year.

Typical treatments range from $350 to $700, a small price to pay for turning back the clock without evidence of “having work done.”

Even men are getting in on the action. More than 300,000 men underwent “Brotox”  treatments last year. Their reasons for nudging towards the needle range from simple vanity to gaining a competitive edge in the workplace.

And then there are a growing number of patients who use Botox to treat debilitating conditions such as migraine headaches, muscle spasms and urinary incontinence. Since 2002, Botox has been FDA-approved to treat almost a dozen different medical conditions.

So here we are. Ten years later with millions of Botox injections for dozens of different treatments and everybody it happy. Right?

Well, that brings us back to the man who started it all, Dr. Alan Scott.

Dr. Scott sold his stake in Botox to Allergan for $8 million in 1990. So what’s the problem? Well, Botox sales easily top $1 billion annually. And that number is only growing. Dr. Scott is kind of kicking himself today.

He recently told CBS News, “I was a pretty good doctor and not a bad lab worker, but I was not a great businessperson!”

As for the rest of us, we are certainly glad that Dr. Scott made his fortune (even if it was only $8 million dollars worth of fortunte) by discovering Botox. We are all the younger for it!

Happy 10th Anniversary, Botox!


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