April 15, 2024: Fake Botox investigation expands to five states; six hospitalized

Major Stories

Investigations in Illinois and Tennessee into cosmetic injections that sickened six people have expanded to Kentucky, Washington and Colorado. As of April 15, at least 12 patients have presented with classic signs of botulism, a dangerous disease that begins with slurred speech and facial weakness and can progress to paralysis and death. Half of those people have been hospitalized. Authorities suspect the victims received counterfeit versions of botulinum toxin, which is sold as Botox, Dysport, and Xeomin in the United States. The products are best known for smoothing wrinkles, but they also treat a wide range of medical conditions, including chronic migraine, osteoarthritis, muscle spasms and joint pain. 

The cybersecurity firm BrandShield reported that more than ninety percent of the 279 pharmacy websites it shut down in 2023 were selling fake versions of Ozempic, Wegovy and other weight-loss and diabetes drugs in the GLP-1 class.

States investigating fake injections

Domestic News

News about counterfeit pill manufacturing and sales in six states. 

The U.S. Attorney's Office of the Southern District of New York charged two New York City residents with narcotics distribution after Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officers raided a building in the Bronx, seizing two industrial-scale pill presses, approximately 130,000 counterfeit Xanax, Adderall, and OxyContin pills made of fentanyl or methamphetamine, powdered narcotics and other counterfeit pill making supplies. This case was among those highlighted in a DEA update about recent pill press seizures.

A Massachusetts man pleaded guilty to distributing tens of thousands of pills made with fentanyl and methamphetamine. In February 2023, he was caught with 31,000 fentanyl pills, powder that contained fentanyl and methadone, a pill press, and stamps used to make counterfeit pills.

State and federal courts sentenced defendants involved in the production of counterfeit pills in Florida, Montana, New Hampshire and Ohio.

12 New York residents were convicted of trafficking cocaine, counterfeit Xanax, oxycodone and Adderall in New York’s Hudson Valley. Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement seized $1.3 million in drugs, including 15,000 methamphetamine pills disguised as Adderall, 5,000 fake Xanax pills, 750 counterfeit oxycodone made with heroin, and 11 kilograms of cocaine.

DEA agents in New York City raided a pill press operation in the Bronx (April 2024)

International News

Illegally imported medicines in Canada. Toxic cough syrup recalled in six African countries. Xylazine found in counterfeit pills in the U.K. 

Health Canada warned that a company in Red Deer, Alberta had illegally imported unapproved prescription drugs and supplements. Officials seized metformin, a diabetes treatment; levothyroxine, which treats hypothyroidism; and ivermectin and mebendazole, which treat parasites.

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority recalled two batches of pediatric cough syrup that were distributed in Eswatini, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania. The batches contain dangerous levels of diethylene glycol. The same toxin in cough syrup killed more than 300 children in Gambia, Indonesia and Uzbekistan in 2022.

Officials in the U.K. warned that xylazine has been found in counterfeit alprazolam, codeine and diazepam pills.

News reported on more fake oncology drugs seized from three shops in India, a raid on a factory making counterfeit medicines in Pakistan and counterfeit anesthesia, antibiotics and liver treatments in Bangladesh.

Illegally imported medicine Health Canada seized from a business in Red Deer, Alberta (April 2024)