Skip to content

    Migraines & Headaches Health Center

    Font Size

    Botox Only Modestly Effective for Migraines

    Chronic Sufferers Had, on Average, 2 Fewer Headaches a Month
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

    April 24, 2012 -- Botox injections are only modestly effective for preventing migraines in the most frequent sufferers, a new research review shows.

    Among chronic sufferers who had at least 15 migraines a month, the treatment prevented, on average, about two headaches a month.

    Botox was no more effective than some of the most widely prescribed drugs used for migraines when the treatments were compared.

    Botox Common Migraine Treatment

    Best known as a cosmetic therapy to banish facial frown lines, botulinum toxin type A, or Botox, was approved to prevent migraines in 2010, but only for patients who experience 15 or more migraine headaches a month.

    Today, about half of the $1.6 billion annual sales of Botox are from migraine and other non-cosmetic uses, a company spokesperson tells WebMD.

    In the new study, which appears this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers analyzed findings from 27 trials that compared Botox to placebo and four studies that compared it to other migraine treatments.

    The analysis found that Botox injections were not effective for preventing migraines in patients who have less than 15 headaches a month. The treatment also did not appear to benefit patients with chronic tension headaches.

    But Botox-treated patients with chronic migraines and daily headaches had an average of two fewer headaches per month.

    Researcher Jeffrey L. Jackson, MD, of the Medical College of Wisconsin, says it is clear that much better migraine therapies are needed, especially for the most frequent sufferers.

    "All of the available migraine treatments benefit some patients and not others," he tells WebMD. "Until we really understand migraines it will be hard to design treatments that work well for all patients."

    He says that while the average Botox patient may not experience big improvements, results for some patients might be dramatic.

    Botox Finding 'No Big Surprise'

    Headache specialist Satnam Nijjar, MD, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says the research analysis will surprise few clinicians working in the field.

    "This review emphasizes that most patients experience modest benefits, but we already knew that," he tells WebMD.

    Today on WebMD

    Business woman with hand on face and eyes closed
    What aura looks like, triggers, and more.
    woman with migraine
    Get the truth about migraines.
    headache in the bedroom
    Keep headaches from ruining your sex life.
    woman with hands on head
    Test your knowledge of triggers, types, and more.
    woman with migraine
    drinking coffee
    Migraines Headaches Basics
    acupuncture needles in woman's back
    Tired young man
    spraying perfume
    man with a headache
    headache in the bedroom