Fake Botox Linked to Cases of Botulism-Like Illnesses, 4 People Hospitalized

Counterfeit Botox injections have caused hospitalizations in multiple states.

Lauren Wellbank - Author

Apr. 11 2024, Published 11:09 a.m. ET

Injectables set up for a cosmetic procedure
Source: Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are telling Botox users to beware, after a spike in injection-related infections sent several people to the hospital. Government officials believe that this was due to a potentially fake Botox, which is believed to be causing a botulism-like illness among users, leading to hospitalization in some of the more affected patients.

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Botox, which is an injection of a cleaned up version of the botulinum toxin, has become a popular way to help with everything from minimizing wrinkles to busting migraines over the years. Unfortunately, it seems like users will need to pay more attention to how they are receiving these injections, as the sale of fake Botox injections continues to rise. Learn more about the risks of counterfeit Botox injections, including tips on how to spot the real deal, below.

Medical professional prepping a needle for a Botox injection
Source: Getty Images
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Fake Botox? Multiple patients have been hospitalized after receiving allegedly counterfeit Botox injections.

In an April 5, 2024 press release from the Tennessee Department of Health, consumers were urged to be on the lookout for counterfeit Botox products — or those that may have come from an unidentified manufacturer — after two Tennessee patients ended up in the hospital with botulism-like side effects.

Two patients in Illinois were also hospitalized, per the state. An Illinois health department official is advising residents to "exercise caution when considering cosmetic treatment."

Traditional botulism infections are rare. But still, anyone who received a Botox treatment in Tennessee or Illinois in or shortly before April 2024 should be on the lookout for some of the common signs and symptoms of botulism, which the CDC says include:

  • Trouble with swallowing and/or breathing
  • Muscular weakness
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Droopy eyelids and/or trouble moving your eyes
  • Slurred speech.
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How to identify counterfeit Botox injections:

The CDC urges Botox users to be on the lookout for potentially fake injections, reminding users that they should only ever receive their treatments from licensed medical providers. Additionally, these Botox sessions should only ever be completed in a licensed setting, like a doctor's office or other type of licensed facility.

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The press release went on to reveal that the manufacturer of the fake Botox had yet to be identified at the time of the statement, but officials seemed to suspect that the rise in botulism related illnesses had to do with counterfeit products, as opposed to any type of contamination of products that had already received approval from the FDA, giving users a leg up when it comes to identifying fake Botox.

For an added layer of safety, you should check the FDA website for more information about approved products before receiving any type of Botox injection. Some of the approved products from the FDA's list should appear on the label of the injectable, and include OnabotulinumtoxinA (AKA: Botox/Botox Cosmetic), RimabotulinumtoxinB (AKA Myobloc), and AbobotulinumtoxinA (AKA: Dysport).

While the Mayo Clinic says that receiving Botox injections from a licensed provider is a relatively safe procedure, there are always potential risks. You can try to eliminate at least some of those potential problems by following the CDC recommendations, especially during a time when counterfeit drugs may be in circulation. With hospitals admitting Botox patients after these supposedly counterfeit treatments, it's better to err on the side of caution.

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