Botox maker Allergan sued by Las Vegas surgeon
A Las Vegas plastic surgeon has sued Allergan Inc., accusing the Irvine pharmaceutical company of selling its popular wrinkle treatment Botox in large vials and encouraging physicians to unsafely reuse them.
Dr. Julio L. Garcia contends that Allergan sold Botox exclusively in 100-unit vials for several years, even though a typical treatment required just 20 units. The lawsuit, filed Monday in federal court in Los Angeles, said Allergan sales reps encouraged physicians to use the vials on multiple patients, a practice now condemned by health officials.
The lawsuit accuses Botox of false advertising and violating California’s unfair competition law. It seeks unspecified monetary damages and certification as a class action. The lawsuit does not contend that any Botox patients became ill because of the alleged safety violations.
Allergan spokeswoman Caroline Van Hove declined to discuss specific allegations in the lawsuit. She said the company advocates the single use of Botox vials, as its labels indicate.
Botox is the brand name for Botulinum Toxin Type A, a toxin that temporarily weakens facial muscles that contribute to wrinkles. Botox Cosmetic was available only in 100-unit vials from 2002 until 2008, when Nevada health officials blamed a hepatitis outbreak on the reuse of vials of the drug propofol, the lawsuit said.
To defer patient costs, Allergan reps had told doctors to promote a “buddy system,” in which two or more patients came into the office together to share a single vial, Garcia said in the lawsuit.
The Centers for Disease Control and state public health agencies have warned against using medication from a single vial to treat multiple patients.
In 2008, Allergan started selling Botox in 50-unit vials, “only after the hepatitis exposure in Nevada,” the lawsuit said. Still, the majority of the medication must be discarded after use, keeping costs high and making it difficult for physicians to profit, the lawsuit said.
-- Stuart Pfeifer
Photo: A patient receives Botox treatment in Dallas. Credit: Ron Heflin/Associated Press