Medical Technology

At 89, an ophthalmologist who invented Medical Botox dies

The ophthalmologist credited with developing botulinum toxin (Botox) for medical purposes has passed away at the age of 89, his family confirmed to National Public Radio.

Alan Brown Scott, a Berkeley native who redesigned the drug from a deadly poison into a revolutionary treatment for obscure eyes diseases more than four decades ago. It later became a well-known blockbuster treatment for reducing the appearance of wrinkles and treating hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating). Other approved medical uses include treatment for overactive bladder and urinary incontinence.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons it was the most sought-after cosmetic procedure in 2020. Among the 13.3 million procedures, 4.4 million were performed using Botox.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Ed Schantz, who was working for the military’s biological weapons program was the person who first send the toxin Scott. Scott, who wanted to investigate its properties for medical use.

The Bloomberg article also noted that botulinum toxins can impair breathing and cause death in tiny quantities.

Scott was looking for ways to aid his patients in avoiding extensive surgery.

“Specifically, he was aiming to treat patients with cross-eyes, also known as strabismus, and blepharospasm which is an uncontrollable closure of eyes. Today, it’s also utilized to help with migraines, hair loss, and the drooling,” NPR reports.

The New York Times once described Botox as “medicine’s answer to duct tape.”

Scott was the director of the executive department of the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco when he did his pioneering research with botulinum toxin during the 1970s and 1980s according to an article in SFGate.

In 1991, Scott sold the drug to Allergan, when it was referred to as Oculinum. The next year the name was changed to Botox.

In 2002, Scott told SFGate when asked about the more affluent use of the drug “I think that’s a charming and a little frivolous use” adding, “but it’s not along the same lines as the things I was looking for applications for serious disorders.”

According to the Scientific America in Scientific American in 2016, Scott was 83 years old at the time continued to work on the non-cosmetic benefits of botulism-toxin treatments for eye-related disorders at the Strabismus Research Foundation,

He said in Scientific American that he was pleased with his efforts to “directly assist people directly.”

He added, “There are many interesting and difficult problems still being solved and I’m a full-time doctor and have them on my radar every day.”

Scott’s daughter, Ann Scott, told NPR, “He definitely loved his work, and he was also a great father.” She said that Scott was a great father and was very involved with his children in research and work.

She stated, “He was a really quiet and reserved person,” and that he was dedicated to teaching his students, a lot of who were international students.

“That was what he truly loved,” she said.

Scott, who died Thursday was in intensive care for the past 10 days from an unspecified illness, his daughter told NPR.

Marcia Frellick, a Chicago-based freelance journalist is Marcia Frellick. She has previously written for the Chicago Tribune, Science News, and Nurse.com, and was editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the St. Cloud (Minnesota) Times. Follow her on Twitter at @mfrellick

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