Botox is the most popular cosmetic procedure in the country. It's designed to fade lines and wrinkles on your face, but government regulators say people in Florida may have been getting dangerous injections.
Instead of the name-brand Botox Cosmetic, some may have received injections of a drug not licensed nor approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Doctors say the consequences of that can be deadly.
"People can go in to comas. They get problems breathing," explains certified physician's assistant Kathryn Bies at the Winter Park Laser & Anti-Aging Center. "You just don't really know how [unapproved drugs are] going to interact with the body, with the muscles. Is it going to travel somewhere? Is it even sterile? Not only is it in your body, it's in your face. That would be scary."
The FDA believes dozens of Florida doctors have bought "Botox Cosmetic" that may not really be Botox, instead, buying from a foreign supplier owned by a company called Canada Drugs.
The letter to those doctors from federal authorities said, the "FDA requests that you cease using, and retain and secure all remaining products," explaining, "such products put patients at risk of exposure to ineffective or dangerous products. [even] serious risk of harm or death."
READ FULL LETTER TO DOCTORS FROM FDA
Five of the practices in question are right here in Central Florida: Dr. Richard Arabitg on Conroy-Windermere road in Orlando, Dr. George Feussner of NW 11th Place in Gainesville, Dr. Jorge Gonzalez of North Orange Avenue in Orlando, Dr. Steven Sable of East Central Parkway in Altamonte Springs, and the Wymore Laser and Anti-Aging Center on Wymore Road in Winter Park.
FOX 35 called or emailed all five practices last week, but we had not heard back from any of them by the time of this report.
READ COMPLETE LIST OF DOCTORS ALERTED BY THE FDA
"I think a lot of it is for financial reasons," believes Jennifer Calabrese of the Winter Park Laser Center, a practice which showed FOX 35 that they used licensed and approved Botox Cosmetic.
Calabrese and her staff also helped us learn how to make sure a Botox injection is the real deal. "You also want to be a little bit leery of the price. It's okay to get a good price, but if something seems too good to be true -- it could be!" Calabrese explained. "The average price of Botox in Central Florida is about $9 to $13 dollars per unit, so if you see something for $5 to $8 dollars per unit, it might not be Botox Cosmetic. It could be a generic brand."
You also shouldn't be shy about asking the doctor to see both the box and the bottle. "Botox Cosmetic" is made by a company called Allergan. In person, you will see a rainbow-colored hologram that says "Allergan."
"If they don't want to show you the bottle, that might be a red flag," Calabrese tells FOX 35.
The FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations is looking in to the practices believed to have bought Botox from this foreign company
Again, FOX 35 contacted everyone on the FDA's list in our viewing area, but we did not get a response by our broadcast deadline.
Also be aware, Florida law requires that a licensed doctor, physician's assistant, or nurse practitioner inject Botox.