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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Call for limits on cosmetic use of botulinum toxin

FRAME is calling for a limit on the use of botulinum toxin for cosmetic reasons. Surgeons in the US are claiming that treatment with the toxin (often known as Botox) can help cure baldness.



Botulinum toxin is produced by bacteria but each batch has to be tested separately to determine its potency. It is tested on mice, which are dosed until they are paralysed or half of the test animals die. (LD50) There is currently no accepted alternative, humane test that will ensure the safety of people receiving the treatment.  



The toxin has important medical uses and FRAME accepts that some needs to be produced for those reasons but the charity is calling for a moratorium on the trivial, non-medical use of botulinum toxin until such time as it can be tested by humane methods.


It is important to know the exact potency of the toxin, in order to administer doses that are both safe and effective for the envisaged treatment. However, because the toxin is a biological product, the potency varies from batch to batch. This means that each batch has to be tested afresh.



FRAME chairman Prof Michael Balls said: “There is no excuse for the fact that animals are being subjected to painful and distressing procedures in order to satisfy human vanity.  It is a paradox that many people who object to one-off tests of cosmetics on animals do not feel the same way about the necessary repeated testing of this treatment.



  “There are important medical reasons for the continued use of botulinum toxin, but it is vital that new test systems are made available that will avoid the use of animals. Some methods have already been developed, but greater effort is required to optimise and validate them so that they will be generally accepted.”


Archived July 21 2009