The craze for Botox or similar 'beauty-enhancing' drugs seems to be exploding in the West.
More than 2.4 million Botox procedures were performed in 2008, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
Now there is a website peddling prescription Dysport, the first direct competitor to Botox - no questions, no prescriptions asked for.
"Wrinkles? NO! Savings? YES!
International Orders are Welcome! We ship ANYWHERE!"
"If you have ever had injections done at the salon you know how expensive it can be. There is a way to do the same procedure and not have to pay the high price."
So proclaims the website Discountmedspa. A Grand Prairie, Texas, woman, Laurie D'Alleva, who appears to be the site's proprietor, performs treatments on herself in self-made videos posted to the site's YouTube channel. In one video, D'Alleva pulls out a vial of what is presumably Dysport and a syringe filled with saline.
"It's important to remember that you are mixing the potency of the botox," she says, mixing the contents of the vial with the saline solution. She then injects her forehead and the areas around her eyes.
An appreciative letter posted on the site reads: "I have had disport one time and it didnt work.I had botox twice and it was o.k. I just did the freeze i bought from you and wow wow it
is unreal i have 000 wrinkles."
Pharma Ipsen received FDA clearance to sell Dysport in the United States a few months ago, but it's a prescription medication.
In recent years, the vast amounts of money spent on the treatment have attracted scams and knockoffs, which the FDA has had to crack down on. In May, the FDA also ruled the drug needed a tougher "black-box" warning label to reflect an increased understanding of the small, but real risks of the treatment.
In the U.S., it is illegal for anyone but a doctor or nurse practitioner to prescribe drugs to patients and only pharmacists can dispense drugs to people. Yet drug sellers on the internet routinely flout the FDA's regulations, writes Alexis Madrigal on Wired.
A review published last month in the Annals of Family Medicine found more than 130 websites offering antibiotics without a prescription. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy tracks thousands of sites that don't meet its standards for brick-and-mortar shops. LegitScript, a private firm that works with the NABP, has database of 47,633 internet pharmacies; 46,570 of them aren't up to snuff.
These sites are brazenly circumventing regulations that protect consumers from bad or fake drugs and ensure that the chemicals are used correctly.
DiBernardo, a plastic surgeon from Mont Clair, New Jersey, said, "You need to know where the muscles are, the depth, the dosage. That doesn't seem good."