Budget 'Botox' Paralyzes Four

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Palm Beach County's top health official urged people not to take anti-wrinkle injections after investigators said four people were paralyzed by raw botulism marketed as a cheap alternative to Botox.

Federal investigators say 51 vials of botulinum toxin worth $53,000 were shipped by an Arizona supplier to 13 South Florida customers last year. Their investigation is continuing.

A hearing was scheduled in Fort Lauderdale federal court Monday on a government request that a judge block Tucson-Arizona-based Toxin Research International Inc. and its affiliates from offering the substance for sale through national mailings to doctors' offices.

People trying to erase wrinkles with injections "are really taking life in their hands," Dr. Jean Malecki, director of the Palm Beach County Health Department, said Saturday.

Robert Gehrke, an attorney representing TRI, did not immediately return a phone call Sunday.

A delivery of the toxic substance from TRI is blamed for paralyzing an unlicensed doctor and three other people after he injected them and himself at Advanced Integrated Medical Center in Oakland Park in November, Food and Drug Administration investigators said.

Osteopath Bach McComb, his girlfriend Alma Hall and Eric and Bonnie Kaplan went on ventilators for paralysis that prevented them from breathing on their own.

The Kaplans remain partially paralyzed and were transferred from a hospital to a rehabilitation center Thursday. McComb and Hall remain hospitalized in Bayonne, New Jersey.

The Kaplans are suing TRI and McComb, whose Florida medical license was suspended last year.

An FDA inspector visited TRI last October, but executives denied having sold the substance for anything other than permitted animal research, FDA officials said.

According to a federal affidavit filed in Fort Lauderdale, investigators have accused TRI of continuing to sell the bacteria and then trying to delete computer files of sales records. No criminal charges have been filed against anyone involved in the probe.
  • Chris Hawke

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