Botox Popularity Spurs Counterfeit Dangers

ByABC News
February 3, 2005, 7:25 PM

Feb. 3, 2005 -- -- Eric Kaplan is a chiropractor, a wealthy business consultant and the author of a book about healthy living. But now he is unable to swallow and must be fed through a tube -- because of an elective medical procedure he underwent last November.

Kaplan and his wife, Bonnie, say they thought they were getting Botox treatments, which they hoped would make them look younger. When Botox is injected in a very tiny amount into certain areas of the face, it can prevent those muscles from contracting and creating frown lines.

Botox is made from deadly Botulinum toxin type A which can cause paralysis. But, Botox has no known serious side effects when used correctly, and is the only Food and Drug Administration-approved product of its kind. It's also expensive. Patients generally pay about $300 to $900 per treatment.

As a result, demand and expense has led to a thriving black market in bootleg or substitute products sold at cut-rate prices -- without any safety protections at all.

Kaplan, 52, and his 53-year-old wife say they fell victim to such a bootleg batch. They were a healthy and active couple when they went into a south Florida medical clinic to get about six injections each. They hoped the treatments would ease wrinkles around their eyes, bridge of their nose and foreheads.

Within two days of their treatment, they were so devastated, they were flown to a paralysis recovery center in Atlanta. After two months, Bonnie Kaplan can swallow and is regaining her mobility, but she still cannot speak.

"She sits in a bed next to me because I wanted to get rid of my wrinkles," Eric Kaplan told "Primetime Live"'s Chris Cuomo. "Instead of turning back the clock, they hit a fast-forward button."

When the Kaplans decided to get Botox treatments, they thought it would make them look better at this year's round of holiday parties. Eric Kaplan said another chiropractor, Tom Toia, offered them Botox injections at his clinic from a doctor named Bach McComb.