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FOX Medical Team

FDA warns medical practices about unlicensed Botox

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ATLANTA -

There is growing concern about unlicensed Botox. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning 350 medical practices they may have received unauthorized, and maybe unsafe, versions of the popular wrinkle-fighter.
      
The FDA says the unlicensed Botox is being shipped by suppliers owned by a pharmacy called Canada Drugs. Because these batches of wrinkle fighter are not regulated, the agency is warning doctors the Botox may not be effective, and it may not be safe.

When it comes to fighting wrinkles, Botox has earned a reputation as a bit of a wonder-drug. Atlanta plastic surgeon Dr. John Connors says you inject the neurotoxin between the eyebrows, and within a couple of days, frown lines disappear for up to four months.

"The results are remarkable. Patients do really well with it, in and out quickly," said Conners.

But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning Botox imported from Canada could be putting patients at risk. In late November, the agency sent out an alert letter to 350 medical practices nationwide - 11 in Georgia.

The alert warned them they may have received "unapproved medications, including unapproved versions of Botox," from one of a handful of suppliers owned and operated by Canada Drugs. The agency even listed the doctors' names, and locations, who may have purchased unlicensed Botox.

"It is illegal.  And I think the fact that the FDA has put physicians names and practice names on their website, it's a real call to arms," said Conners.

According to the FDA's website, fda.gov, four metro Atlanta physicians were sent alert letters: Drs. Herb Kollinger in Woodstock, Ben D. Thomas Jr. and Frederick Work, Jr. of Atlanta and Shereen Timani of Duluth.
       
In an email to FOX 5, Dr. Ben Thomas says although his name appears on the FDA list, he never received a letter from the agency, and was mistakenly included on the list.
      
Dr. Thomas sent two invoices from March of 2011 showing he purchased Botox cosmetic from Allergan, the FDA-licensed manufacturer.
       
Dr. Connors says just about every week he gets emails and faxes offering big discounts on drugs like Botox, but he will only buy from Allergan.

"It is a big deal for me, because as a physician, I want to know exactly what I'm injecting," said Conners.

The FDA says if Botox is unlicensed, it's unregulated, so there's no way to vouch for its safety or effectiveness. So, how do you know what you're getting in that syringe?
 
"I think you ask your physician, ‘Where do you get your Botox?' If the price is a little low, you've got to be an astute shopper. And if you're looking around shopping around for cheap Botox, you get what you pay for," said Conners.

Last week, FOX 5 contacted all four metro area physicians the FDA says were sent alert letters about counterfeit Botox. Only Dr. Thomas responded by our broadcast deadline.
This was the fifth alert in about a year the FDA has issued about counterfeit medications coming into the country from foreign suppliers.

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