Illinois Issues Alert on Possible Botulism Cases That May Be Linked to Counterfeit Botox

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The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) alerted health care facilities on Monday to be on a heightened lookout for patients exhibiting symptoms resembling botulism after two reported cases in the state.

The cases involved people who received injections of Botox or a similar counterfeit product from a licensed nurse in LaSalle County who was performing work outside her authority, the IDPH said.

Both individuals required hospitalization after developing symptoms similar to botulism, such as blurred vision, droopy face, fatigue, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and a hoarse voice.

The IDPH said it had been in contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding its investigation into the cases.

The Tennessee Department of Health also reported similar cases.

IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra has advised Illinois residents to exercise caution when considering cosmetic treatments. He encouraged those who have experienced health issues after receiving such treatments to seek medical assistance.

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“Receiving these treatments in unlicensed, unapproved settings can put you or your loved ones at serious risk for health problems,” Dr. Vohra said in a press release.

“Please only seek cosmetic services under the care of licensed professionals trained to do these procedures and who use FDA approved products,” he added.

In Illinois, only certain licensed professionals are allowed to perform injections of botulinum toxin, the key ingredient in Botox. Licensed nurses require the supervision of a physician to perform such practices.

Botulism is a rare but potentially deadly illness characterized by muscle paralysis.

According to the CDC, those who receive botulinum toxin injections for cosmetic or medical purposes, like migraine headaches, may face a higher risk of iatrogenic botulism if the dose they receive is too large or if they have underlying nerve or muscle conditions.

In December 2023, the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen filed a petition with the FDA seeking to require makers of Botox and several similar injections to include stronger warnings about the risk of a potentially fatal muscle-paralyzing disease.

These injections, which use various versions of botulinum toxins to contract specific muscles by blocking certain nerve signals to erase wrinkles, already have a “black box” warning in their labels about the risks of the intended effect spreading to other areas.

However, the consumer group asked the FDA to clarify that these adverse effects could occur even at recommended dosages.

The group also asked the FDA to remove promotional statements that claim there are no definitive serious side effects from the distant spread of the toxin effect associated with the toxins.

This request came after the group analyzed over 5,400 reports of deaths, life-threatening events, and other serious side effects related to Botox and rival toxin-based wrinkle treatments between January 1989 and March 2021 that were recorded in the FDA’s adverse events database.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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