CDC investigating fake Botox injections: ‘Serious and sometimes fatal’

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Fake Botox is on the CDC’s radar.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Friday that it is investigating reports of “a few botulism-like illnesses in several states resulting from botulinum toxin injections (commonly called ‘Botox’) administered in non-medical settings,” the agency said in a statement.

“We are coordinating a multi-state outbreak investigation,” the agency added. 

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Illnesses have been reported to the Tennessee and Illinois health departments, which are working with the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the investigation, the CDC noted.

CDC headquarters

The CDC said it is investigating reports of “a few botulism-like illnesses in several states resulting from botulinum toxin injections (commonly called ‘Botox’) administered in non-medical settings,” the agency said in a statement. (REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

In Tennessee, four patients sought medical care after experiencing “botulism-like signs and symptoms” after receiving Botox injections for cosmetic purposes, according to an online statement from the Tennessee Department of Health.

Two of the patients were hospitalized.

“Do not go to an unlicensed provider. If the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

“Joint investigations have identified concerns about use of counterfeit products or products with unclear origin administered in non-medical settings such as homes or cosmetic spas,” the statement said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health issued a similar statement after two patients reported receiving potentially counterfeit Botox injections in LaSalle County.

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The two individuals reported symptoms that included blurred/double vision, droopy face, fatigue, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and hoarse voice, the statement said.

The patients, both of whom were hospitalized, received the injections from a licensed nurse who was “performing work outside her authority.”

man getting

Botulism is a “serious and sometimes fatal” illness that occurs when a toxin attacks the body’s nerves, according to the CDC. (iStock)

Additional cases have been reported in Kentucky, Washington and Colorado.

“The sources of these botulinum toxin products are unknown or unverified at this time,” the CDC stated. 

“Questions about product regulation and product investigation should be directed to the FDA.”

What is botulism?

Botulism is a “serious and sometimes fatal” illness that occurs when a toxin attacks the body’s nerves, according to the CDC.

Initial symptoms usually include muscle weakness around the eyes, face, mouth and throat, which could also spread to the neck, arms, torso and legs.

“If the wrong patient begins having trouble with their breathing, it could be fatal.”

Other symptoms can include blurred or double vision, difficulty breathing, trouble swallowing, drooping eyelids, slurred speech and difficulty moving the eyes.

“What’s particularly concerning are the respiratory problems that some are experiencing,” Dr. Salar Hazany, a certified dermatologist and reconstructive surgeon at Scar Healing Institute in Beverly Hills, told Fox News Digital.

“If the wrong patient begins having trouble with their breathing, it could be fatal.”

Botox injection

Botox is made from a specific type of Clostridium botulinum, a bacteria that produces paralysis in the muscles where it is injected. (iStock)

Dr. Craig Lehrman, director of aesthetic surgery at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, noted that fake Botox has been an issue since the early 2000s.

“Unfortunately, I treat several patients a year who have received non-approved injectables of things they are told to be safe, which ends up having serious consequences,” he told Fox News Digital.

“It has mostly been linked to injections in settings such as someone’s home or a poorly regulated med spa.”

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Botox is made from a specific type of Clostridium botulinum, a bacteria that produces paralysis in the muscles where it is injected, he said.

“The people receiving the presumed counterfeit Botox are suffering from an illness that is similar to botulism, caused by the same bacteria,” he said.

Botulinum toxin

There are strict safety criteria for the use and storage of Botox, and serious risks come with the injection of fraudulent or poorly managed products, an expert warned.  (iStock)

There are strict safety criteria for the use and storage of Botox, and serious risks come with the injection of fraudulent or poorly managed products, Lehrman warned. 

“Botulism can carry detrimental effects ranging from infection, to permanent deformity, to serious wound formation.”

Tips for safe Botox use

“​​Cosmetic injections should be an FDA-approved product, administered by licensed providers and in licensed settings,” the CDC stated. 

There has been a large increase in the number of people offering these services who are not board-certified in the fields of plastic surgery, dermatology or ENT, according to Lehrman. 

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“I would advise potential patients to do their research on the person who will be injecting them — and not just search for the cheapest option,” he said. 

“I would recommend going to a center that has rigorous standards of education and a track record of safety.”

In most cases, Botox injections are safe, according to experts.

Woman at doctor

Anyone who experiences botulism-like symptoms following an injection should seek medical attention, according to health officials. (iStock)

“Laboratory-confirmed cases of systemic botulism occurring after cosmetic or therapeutic injections of botulinum toxin are rare,” the CDC said in its statement.

Millions of injections are performed each year by licensed medical providers and have been shown to be safe when done in the correct manner, Lehrman added.

“Those considering Botox should research the background of the provider and make sure that the practice has not racked up a number of complaints,” added Hazany.  

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“Do not go to an unlicensed provider. If the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Anyone who experiences botulism-like symptoms following an injection should seek medical attention, according to health officials.

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Fox News Digital reached out to Abbvie (manufacturer of Botox), the FDA, the Tennessee Department of Public Health, and the Illinois Department of Public Health requesting comment.

For more Health articles, visit www.foxnews.com/health