We all like to land a good bargain, right? Clothes, shoes, home goods, groceries, Botox®… Wait! Botox®?
You may have noticed some medical practices offer exceptionally low prices on injectables like Botox®, Juvederm, Radiesse and others. These low ball prices may be far below the typical market value. Nevertheless, the ‘bargain’ catches your eye, so you pick up the phone to inquire. Before you decide on a ‘too good to be true deal’ for your face, please read on about a dirty little secret. Black and grey market injectables. Shh…..
With the increase in demand for non-surgical anti-aging treatments and the millions of dollars spent yearly by the consumer, the black/grey injectable market has surfaced. Black market represents those products that are counterfeit, may or may not be what it claims, and usually imported from countries without regulations on drug manufacturing. Grey market injectables are those that are originally produced or manufactured by an approved company, but acquired through illegal, cheaper channels, usually imported. The FDA requires the purchase of drugs which they have approved, to be purchased from the approved manufacturer within the United States. The purchase of black/grey market products is cost effective but the illegality is clear. The cheap, short cut process may not only create work for prosecutors and attorneys, but serious patient safety issues, as well.
Several patient related problems have been identified with black/grey market products. These include, but are certainly not limited to:
- Expiration dates may either be past or very short
- Mishandling of products such as lack of refrigeration during storage and/or shipping when required for product integrity
- Unreliable concentration/integrity of the product (http://www.safemedicines.org/BlackMarketBotox_singlepg_PRESS_pcis.pdf)
These and other issues have resulted in a range of consequences from lack of efficacy and duration of the results to paralysis and hospitalization.
How can you be sure that your injector is using FDA approved product? The packaging should be a defining factor. Though the boxes may look very similar there are some fool proof signs. On the Botox® package, for instance, there is a hologram on the box, the plastic cap on the vial is ALWAYS purple, their signature color, and the package insert literature is ALWAYS written in English. An upstanding, credible injector will appreciate their patient knowing and questioning these things.
Black/grey market injectables MAY be a reason for low ball prices and something that should be investigated by the consumer. There are other legitimate reasons for the low prices as well. Some practices may use cheaper treatments as a lost leader to get the patient in the practice in hopes of selling them a more expensive procedure. For whatever reason, if the product price is ‘too good to be true’ always ask the practice:
- How they can offer the treatment for such a low price. If they say it is because they purchase it cheaper than other practices- BEWARE. All practices pay the same for Botox®. There are tiers of purchasing that may allow for rebates, but each vial is the same price for purchasing.
- If they can guarantee the integrity of the product. If they say they can not guarantee the integrity- BEWARE. The manufacturer always stands behind their product therefore the practice can, as well.
- If they can offer any guarantee of the results. If they say no- BEWARE. Though each person may have varying results, the injector should be experienced enough to offer realistic expectations to the patient. The manufacturer wants to know if optimum results can not be achieved on a patient and will usually offer additional product for them.
In short, if you are not satisfied with answers to these questions, don’t compromise your face and your health to save a few dollars. Simple. It’s your face, after all.