Surprise Hits: Botox gets injected into the market -- and faces stiff competition

Many years ago, a friend afflicted with blepharspasm (uncontrolled blinking) told me she was about to undergo a new treatment in which the toxin that caused botulism would be injected into the muscle of her eye. I was aghast but said nothing -- until a week later, when I met her again, and her incessant blinking had miraculously stopped, to her great relief.

That was my first encounter with Botox, a drug that has become an accepted standard for facial cosmetic improvement, and something of a whipping boy for our beauty- and youth-obsessed culture. Allergan (AGN) reported 2007 sales of $1.2 billion for its drug, most often used to erase wrinkles, frown lines, and crow's feet. Botox injections run $350 to $500 a pop, and its effect lasts from up to six months.