Counterfeit Botox seized in Cincinnati

Customs officers at a Cincinnati express consignment facility have seized multiple shipments of counterfeit Botox injections, a wrinkle treatment sold by drugmaker Allergan.

The shipments, manifested as “leggings” and “facial gift,” were coming from Shenzhen, China, and were destined to private residences in Alabama, Texas, and Utah, according to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Botox (onabotulinumtoxinA) – a form of botulinum toxin - is restricted by the FDA and cannot be imported into the US without proper documentation. The FDA has issued an import alert detailing which pharmaceutical companies produce legitimate botulinum toxin products and how these products can legally be imported into the US.

At least some of the imported product is in Turkish packaging (pictured), reminiscent of a notorious incident a few years back when counterfeit vials of Roche’s cancer drug Avastin (bevacizumab) – bearing the Turkish trade name Altuzan as well as Turkish packaging and with no active ingredient – were found in the US market.

Studies of counterfeit Botox samples typically find no evidence of the botulinum toxin ingredient, but in some cases vials have been discovered with up to five times the amount indicated on the label, perhaps diverted genuine product based on higher strengths usually used for medical applications such as spasticity.

Use of those could lead to overdose and potentially breathing difficulties, trouble swallowing and muscle weakness.

Of course, even counterfeits with no active ingredient represent a major risk to consumers of course, as they may contain toxic compounds or be contaminated with micro-organisms, raising the risk of serious allergic reactions or infections after injection.

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