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Botox Shots Suspected

Two, who had injections, are in Fla. breathing with ventilators, while the other two became ill in NJ and doctors suspect botulism poisoning

Nov 30, 2004 | Newsday Four people with symptoms that appeared to indicate botulism poisoning were being treated in New Jersey and Florida hospitals yesterday and two of them who received Botox injections at a Fort Lauderdale medical center last week were in critical condition.

The four patients knew each other and all four are believed to have visited the Fort Lauderdale center, but whether all four had the injections and whether Botox is linked to their condition is under investigation. The two patients who received Botox injections, both in their 50s, were breathing through ventilators at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, a doctor treating them said. The patients told a doctor that two people being treated in New Jersey also had visited the Fort Lauderdale medical center last week.

Lindsay Hodges, a Florida health department spokeswoman, said all four were Florida residents who knew each other. The two in New Jersey became ill while in New Jersey.

Hodges did not confirm a botulism diagnosis, saying: "We are certainly considering botulism since that was the report [from the hospitals.] The four cases at this point could be linked. It appears they are linked through a common exposure."

Botulism is a rare, potentially deadly illness that paralyzes muscles and affects the eyes, limbs and respiratory tract. Botox is derived from botulism toxin, but is approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It is used as a muscle relaxant and has become a popular cosmetic treatment for facial lines and wrinkles.

Florida state health officials are leading the investigation into the possible botulism cases and have sent laboratory samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for analysis.

A spokeswoman for Allergan, the California company that makes Botox, said it had not confirmed that the patients had received its product. Company officials said yesterday that Botox has a safety record dating to the 1970s.

New Jersey health department spokeswoman Gretchen Michael would not say where the two people visiting the state were hospitalized.

According to a wire service report, the two patients hospitalized in Florida at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center told Dr. Charles Schallop, a neurologist treating them, that they went to the Advanced Integrated Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale last week for Botox injections and that the couple hospitalized in New Jersey also went to the clinic. Officials at the medical center could not be reached for comment.

In Washington, D.C., the Food and Drug Administration also has gotten involved. FDA spokeswoman Lenore Gelb said yesterday the agency's role would be to determine whether particular lots of Botox had been tainted.

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