Plastic surgeons issue warning over counterfeit Botox that has left 22 women ... trends now

Plastic surgeons issue warning over counterfeit Botox that has left 22 women ... trends now
Plastic surgeons issue warning over counterfeit Botox that has left 22 women ... trends now

Plastic surgeons issue warning over counterfeit Botox that has left 22 women ... trends now

Doctors and government agencies are sounding the alarm after 22 women suffered adverse reactions from counterfeit Botox, which landed half of them in the hospital.

As of April 18, 22 people from 11 states have reported harmful reactions after receiving injections of the popular filler from unlicensed or untrained providers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

None of the women underwent the procedure in a medical setting - instead describing getting Botox in spas and at home.

The harmful reactions were reported between November 4, 2023, and March 31, 2024, in a slew of states including California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Texas and Washington.

Aside from untrained people administering Botox, the issue goes even deeper - to the point where licensed medical professionals are being targeted by manufacturers peddling counterfeit product.

'We are being contacted weekly by third-party companies that offer us Botox and fillers for a fraction of the price,' said Dr. Akis Ntonos, co-founder of Aion Aesthetics, a leading aesthetic clinic based in New York.

Medical professionals and government agencies in the United States are warning consumers against receiving Botox from unlicensed providers after a rash of hospitalizations. (Pictured: a licensed professional injects cosmetic filler)

Medical professionals and government agencies in the United States are warning consumers against receiving Botox from unlicensed providers after a rash of hospitalizations. (Pictured: a licensed professional injects cosmetic filler)

Counterfeit products may be difficult to spot, but there are clues, such as an active ingredient listed as 'Botulinum Toxin Type A'

A lot number of C3709 also indicates a fake

Counterfeit products may be difficult to spot, but there are clues: the active ingredient should not be displayed as 'Botulinum Toxin Type A,' for instance. A lot number of C3709 also indicates a fake

The 'magic ingredient' in Botox is a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Hence the brand name - a portmanteau of 'botulinum' and 'toxin.'

According to the World Health Organization, these toxins are among the deadliest in the world - but only small, localized doses are used in treatments, meaning side effects are usually minimal and temporary.

'We call it a neuromodulator,' Ntonos explained. 'Basically, it interrupts the pathways between your brain and the receptors in your muscles.' 

The toxin prevents the release of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter, from axon endings in the brain, causing muscle paralysis - and leading to the appearance of smoothed wrinkles.

Botox uses a sterile, freeze-dried form of botulinum toxin type A that meets medical control standards. The effects can last anywhere from three to 12 months.

And it has proven popular in the United States, with 8,736,591 people receiving Botox or similar treatments in 2022, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

But this high demand begets other problems. Last May, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced that officers in Cincinnati had seized 78 shipments of unapproved injectables over a two-week period.

The product was traveling from Bulgaria, Spain, China and Korea to U.S. states including Florida and New York, where adverse reactions have been reported.

Botox, a portmanteau of 'botulinum' and 'toxin', uses a sterile, freeze-dried form of botulinum toxin type A that interrupts neural signals to paralyze muscles

Botox, a portmanteau of 'botulinum' and 'toxin', uses a sterile, freeze-dried form of botulinum toxin type A that interrupts neural signals to paralyze muscles

Dr. Akis Ntonos, co-founder of Aion Aesthetics, told DailyMail.com that manufacturers of unapproved injectables reach out to his office 'weekly'

Dr. Akis Ntonos, co-founder of Aion Aesthetics, told DailyMail.com that manufacturers of unapproved injectables reach out to his office 'weekly'

Ntonos told DailyMail.com that counterfeit fillers may go for anywhere between a fifth to an eighth of the price charged by Allergan, the manufacturer of Botox.

'So, you can imagine, that's very appealing to some practices,' he said.

But unapproved products may contain unpurified or perilously high doses of botulinum toxin, or possibly none of the drug at all - and results can be catastrophic.

People have reported blurry and double vision, drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, slurred speech, fatigue and weakness - and, in the most extreme cases, difficulty breathing.

In 20 of the 22 cases announced last month, 11 women were hospitalized and six were treated with botulism antitoxin due to concerns that the toxin had spread beyond the injection site.

Of seven people tested for botulism - which can be fatal - six were negative. Results for one person are still pending.

The women ranged from 25 to 59 years old, with a median age of 41 years. Twenty reported receiving botulinum toxin injections for cosmetic purposes. 

Troublingly, all of the women reported receiving the injections from unlicensed or untrained people or in non-healthcare settings.

The rash of hospitalizations sparked concern from government agencies, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration alerted consumers to the sale of counterfeit Botox on April 18.

The report included photos of counterfeit packaging showing that many, if not all of the products were stamped with the name 'Allergan' - the real manufacturer of Botox.

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