Five prominent New York State doctors pled guilty this week to injecting patients with an unapproved version of Botox, and not telling those patients they weren't getting the real thing. They face a possible year in prison and a $100,000 fine on a misdemeanor misbranded drugs charge.
More interesting, however, is the doubt that surrounds exactly what they did. The doctors -- part of Albany's The Plastic Surgery Group -- bought the Botox from Toxin Research International in Arizona, which had marketed it as a Botox equivalent. The doctors maintain they thought it was the real thing, and no patients were injured.
Nonetheless, the government showed that each vial of the drug was marked "For research purposes only, not for human use."
The president of Toxin Research International is currently serving nine years in prison for fraudulently selling misbranded Botox on the web.
The case is a warning to doctors: get your supplies through established channels, not the secondary market. And although there is no real economic impact, Allergan and Medicis, which both sell Botox and its equivalent, Dysport, will be happy to know that docs are less likely to be tempted by cheap, semi-legit suppliers.
These weren't sleazy docs operating out of strip malls. Their resumes read like pillars of the community, per the Albany Times-Union:
John D. Noonan: chief of plastic surgery at St. Peter's Hospital and a neurosurgery consultant for pediatric deformities at Albany Medical Center. He also is a volunteer with Operation Smile, a program that has sent him on missions to South America and Southeast Asia to help children with cleft lip and palate deformities. In addition, Noonan volunteers three to four hours a month for a similar program at St. Peter's Hospital.
William F. DeLuca Jr.: former chief of plastic surgery at Memorial Hospital and was one of the original participants in Operation Smile for several missions in the mid-1980s to the Philippines and Kenya.
Steven M. Lynch: assistant medical professor at Albany Medical Center and a member of AMC's executive committee.
Douglas M. Hargrave: faculty member at Albany Medical Center and a renowned area hand surgeon, specializing in reconstructive hand surgery for children born with congenital deformities. Rockmore specializes in breast surgeries, including reconstruction of breast cancer patients.
Also sentenced was Jeffrey L. Rockmore.