Fake botox a potential bioterror agent

Fake Botox may pose a security risk, according to a study conducted by the Monterey Institute's James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

The study concluded that the proliferation of fake Botox has made it easier for bioterrorists to gain access to it. In sufficient doses, the authors wrote, fake Botox can be lethal.

“The fake cosmetic products generally contain real toxin, albeit in widely varying amounts,” a Monterey Institute press release related to the study said.

The article, by institute faculty Ken Coleman and Raymond Zilinskas, was published in the June issue of Scientific American, according to a Los Angeles Times medical blog.

“Botulinum neurotoxin is grouped with the world’s most lethal potential biological weapons agents, sharing 'Select Agent' status with the pathogens that cause smallpox, anthrax and plague,” the study says. “This biowarfare potential puts the existence of illicit laboratories churning out the toxin and of shady distributors selling it worldwide through the Internet into a more disturbing light than most pharmaceutical fraud.”

Botox, which is injected in minute amounts to smooth frown lines or relax muscle spasms, is not the only drug that inspires illicit manufacture and trade. The world market in counterfeit pharmaceuticals is estimated to be worth some $75 billion annually, the authors noted.