Babes buzzing 'bout Botox

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Is Botox the latest cure for depression? Before hordes of us run out and get our first injections, we need to read the controversial article in May's edition of Dermatologic Surgery—and listen to the response from women's health experts.

The article that says Botox may help alleviate depression is generating quite the buzz in women's health circles and on the Web. It was written by Washington-area dermatologist Eric Finzi. Using a sampling of 10 patients, Finzi gathered statistical support for what some clinicians say they have observed anecdotally, that "people who get their furrowed brows eliminated with Botox (botulinum toxin A) often report an improvement in mood."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," we New Yorkers would say. Of course, women (and it is predominantly women who use Botox to erase wrinkles) feel better after Botox because we look better. We all know it's much more important to look good than to feel good. But Finzi wanted to take the science one step further. In his pilot study, he was hoping to prove that the relationship between Botox and depression is more than skin deep; that there's a physiological or biochemical catalytic mood enhancement effect from Botox or from lacking the ability to frown (Botox deadens the facial muscles).He told the Washington Post, "Maybe the frown is not just an end result of the depression; maybe you need to frown in order to be depressed."

Not so fast, says Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Research Center for Women and Families, who sent around an E-mail as follows:

"Dr. Finzi's study is not only too small to be meaningful, it lacks scientific controls. In well-designed medical research, there is an experimental group and a placebo group, and neither the doctor nor the patient should know who is getting the treatment and who is not. This is especially important in research on depression, where individuals taking placebo often improve dramatically. Unfortunately, Dr. Finzi selected and treated the patients himself as well as writing up the results, and there was no control group."

Botox is a purified form of neurotoxin and, in its unpurified form, one of the most potent poisons known to science. It's a big hit in Hollywood and has been used by millions of Americans since its approval by the Food and Drug Administration in 2002. I prefer the old-fashioned cut-and-paste approach of plastic surgery.