A surge in the number of misbranded fake versions of Botox have proliferated the market, and law enforcement officials have taken both notice and action, reports the Today Show.
In spite of the recession, Americans forked over plenty of cash for more than 2.5 million Botox injections in 2009, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
Con artists and scammers looking to make a quick buck have since figured out how to get a hold of the main ingredient -- the deadly botulinum toxin -- in order to mix their own versions which they then pass off for the real thing when they sell it to sources looking to buy Botox for cheap.
New York plastic surgeon and medical director of Ajune Clinical Spa Dr. Mauro C. Romita says that getting a hold of such a potent drug actually isn't very difficult.
"Anyone with a license can buy botulinum toxin made by the bacteria c. botulinum from a laboratory -- which is normally only used for experimental purposes like checking antibiotic potency. When it's obtained and diluted by an unscrupulous practitioner and then injected, there is no way of knowing how much active toxin is in the injection. It's often a lot, and enough to cause tetanus -- which can be lethal if it gets into the body's circulation," warns Dr. Romita.
Tetanus -- which is commonly referred to as 'lockjaw' -- is a serious bacterial infection that targets nerves and stiffens muscles. It's often characterized by a first symptom of locked jaw and neck, hence, the nickname. Death can result when tetanus advances and limits breathing or heart circulation.
In one of the first cases of its kind, Florida physician Bach McComb who was later found to have a revoked medical license injected a cheaper self-mixed form of botulinum toxin into two patients as well as himself in 2004. The patients -- one of which was the doctor's own girlfriend -- suffered a reaction of body paralysis that had them on hospital life support machines for months.
The young doctor himself also suffered lingering muscle paralysis, and had to attend his own court hearing two years later with the assistance of a walking cane. McComb was served the maximum sentence of three years in jail for administering unapproved drugs.
So how can you prevent such a nightmare scenario from happening to you?
Dr. Romita says that if the price sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.
"Protect yourself by only going to licensed personnel who are physician-guided, trained and who are charging fair market prices in established offices. Ask to see the vial and box that the botox is being drawn from -- fake botox can't use the name "Botox" because it's trademarked," says Dr. Romita.
According to the ASAPS, the average cost of a vial of botox nationwide today is $397.
Also be aware of your surroundings. If a so-called doctor wants to inject you at an apartment or the back room of non-medical office like a hair salon, that's your big red flag to walk, says Dr. Romita.
For more news on dangerous discount beauty gone wrong, check out our feature on free plastic surgery.