Beware of Counterfeit Botox
Botox is immediately recognized as the trade name for a faddish treatment for wrinkles that begin to appear with natural ageing. It has also been used with relative safety for years as a treatment to cure migraine headaches and facial tics.
According to a report released by The Washington Post, eight companies worldwide are licensed to make variations of the drug, and in the United States it is sold only by prescription, under the oversight of the Food and Drug Administration.
The commercial product is formulated as the drug botulinum toxin Type A. It contains an almost microscopic dilution of the actual toxin and each vial sells for about $400.
The problem arises when the huge commercial success of any drug becomes so attractive that it invites black market reproduction. There is ample evidence that a potent clone of the real commercial Botox product is readily available, especially in Russia from suppliers in Chechnya.
Without tight pharmaceutical government controls, counterfeit Botox in its pure form can become a lethal weapon which can be used in a deadly bioterrorism attack. According to the Post, raw botulinum toxin is one of the world’s deadliest poisons: a speck smaller than a grain of sand can kill a 150-pound adult. At full strength, it is the most toxic substance known to exist.
The Post cites a project sponsored by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. Two scientists found that a biologist with a master’s degree and $2,000 worth of equipment could easily make a gram of pure toxin, an amount equal to the weight of a small paper clip but enough, in theory, to kill thousands of people.
“We don’t know how much is getting through,” said an investigator to the Post, who insisted on anonymity because of his involvement in ongoing criminal probes. The fact that one of the hottest commodities happens to be a lethal poison elevates the risk to whole new level, he said.
“We know al-Qaeda has talked about going after food supplies in the United States,” the official said. “There are new reasons to be concerned about what they’re going to target next.”