A new study says the answer is yes. Botulinum toxin, commonly known as Botox, has offered relief to patients with OAB symptoms where previous medications had failed.
Patients experience a decrease in frequency and urgency of their symptoms after an injection, and the study found that these improvements can be maintained over a period of several years.
The study was conducted by a group of British researchers at King's College, led by Dr. Arun Sahai. In their paper, they write that there have few longer-term studies of outcomes for patients who use repeated Botox injections for their OAB symptoms.
Doctors inject Botox into the bladder muscle of the patient. The Botox works to block the signals that tell the bladder muscles to contract, which creates the patient's feeling of urgency.
The researchers observed 100 patients receiving Botox injections for OAB and idiopathic detrusor overactivity (IDO) over a period of about six years. Each patient had at least one injection, and most had two or three. One patient received ten. In total, they did 207 injections.
The patients varied in number of injections because they were not prescribed a certain number to have. Instead, they made their own individual decisions.
Twenty-five percent of the patients stopped the treatment after the first injection either because it did not work for them, or they didn't like the need for self catheterization after treatment. The dropout rate was similar after their second injection.
But patients who continued on with injections after that stuck with the treatment, in general. The study authors found that in these patients with repeated injections, the initial improvements in frequency, urgency, and urinary incontinence were maintained.
There were some concerns about the side effect of urinary tract infections (UTI), which occurred in 15 percent of the patients. The study authors said that this rate is favorable compared to other studies, which saw UTIs in 13 to 43 percent of participants. It's clear that patients who have Botox treatment are more likely to experience UTIs than patients taking a placebo. But they added that it's possible that an injection introduces bacteria deep into the bladder, or that the increase of UTI is related to the use of self catheterization.
The researchers concluded, from their data, that Botox is a safe and effective treatment for patients with OAB symptoms in the medium-term. Long-term studies have not yet been conducted.
The study authors disclosed connections with Allergan Ltd, the maker of Botox. The study was published in European Urology at the end of December, 2011.