Botox Approved, Again, This Time for Urinary Incontinence

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For those of you who have been keeping track, Botox, the symbol of vanity and Bravo’s Real Housewives, actually has a variety of medical uses: it’s government-approved to treat chronic migraines, muscle problems, underarm sweating and a number of other conditions. Now add to that, urinary incontinence.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Botox, or botulinum toxin, to treat incontinence in patients with neurological conditions like spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis. It’s the seventh condition that Botox has been approved to treat since the drug first arrived on the market as a wrinkle reducer in 2002.

How does it treat urinary incontinence? In some patients with neurological conditions, overactivity in the bladder leads to an inability to store urine. By injecting Botox directly into the bladder to relax it, patients are offered for more muscle control and less incontinence.

In two clinical trials involving 691 patients with incontinence due to spinal cord injury or multiple sclerosis, those who got Botox had a significant reduction in weekly incontinence episodes, compared to a placebo group, the FDA said. The most common adverse effects were urinary tract infection and urinary retention.

Given that incontinence is so difficult to manage — typically involving drugs to relax the bladder and the use of a catheter to empty it — Botox may give some patients another option. One injection may help control incontinence for up to 10 months, the FDA said.

The approval also opens the door to yet more uses for Botox, made by Allergan, the New York Times reported:

The drug has been studied for more than 100 medical conditions in all, according to Caroline Van Hove, company spokeswoman. “Anything from writer’s cramp to anal fissure to Parkinson’s disease. That’s why we say it’s a pipeline in a vial,” she said Wednesday.

Botox sales reached about $1.5 billion worldwide in 2010, roughly split between cosmetic and therapeutic purposes.