Health officials have issued an urgent warning about a cut-price ‘Botox’ weight loss procedure being offered in Turkey.
Sixty-seven patients from across Europe have been struck down with botulism after receiving the injections at two separate clinics. No British cases have been reported yet.
The condition, which can prove life-threatening, is caused by toxins produced by bacteria. It can lead to paralysis if not treated urgently.
All of the patients were given stomach or gastric ‘Botox’, which paralyzes muscles in the digestive system, making digestion slower to help them beat the bulge.
Turkish clinics offer patients wanting to lose weight the injections, which are typically used to banish wrinkles, for as little as £850.
European health authorities have issued an alert over a wave of botulism cases believed to have been triggered by ‘Botox’ weight loss procedures in Turkey (stock image)
This is a fraction of the price of similar weight loss procedures in Britain and the US.
All of the cases were logged between February 22 and March 1 2023.
Botox refers to the product made by US pharma giant AbbVie. Clinics in Turkey claim they are using this anti-wrinkle injection — but the company says the procedure has nothing to do with its product.
Botox and botulism both originate from toxins produced by Clostridium botulinum bacteria, and these toxins are highly dangerous.
But it’s typically safe when used by a trained medical professional to paralyse muscles for a range of treatments.
However, if the toxins are administered incorrectly, it can cause symptoms such as weakness, difficulty in breathing and/or swallowing.
This can lead to paralysis and even death if it’s severe and not treated, with up to one in ten cases of botulism being fatal.
While most of the known cases have been mild, several patients have been admitted to hospital, according to European health authorities.
They are advising any patient who had a ‘Botox’ weight loss procedure in Turkey within the suspected dates to contact a medical professional immediately, especially if they start experiencing symptoms of botulism.
Most of the cases with known data have been reported in Turkey itself (53), followed by Germany (12) with one more each in Austria and Switzerland.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, which issued the alert, said what had exactly caused the botulism was unclear.
Turkish authorities had tracked down most of the cases to two clinics, with 60 linked to a private hospital in the capital Istanbul. Three are linked to a private site in Izmir.
British surgeons are growing concerned that the NHS is helping subsidise poor care overseas, with the bill costing the taxpayer an estimated £4.8million over the last four years
Here MailOnline details some of the most striking differences in some cosmetic procedures in UK and Turkey
Cosmetic procedures in Turkey often go at bargain basement prices compared to their British counterparts. Turkey and UK prices have been sourced from multiple websites (model is a stock image)
They also found that while licensed ‘Botox’ was used in the clinics, these products were not specifically approved for obesity treatment.
They have since suspended all activities within the hospitals’ relevant departments and launched further investigations against those parties involved.
Stomach or gastric ‘Botox’ is touted by Turkish cosmetic and weight-loss clinics as a cheap and easier option for people to lose weight compared to full on surgery.
The procedure costs as little as £850, according to medical tourism booking agencies that arrange for Britons to go under the knife in Turkey.
During the procedure, the endoscope — a long tube with a camera at the end — is inserted into the patient’s mouth to reach their stomach.
‘Botox’ is then injected into the stomach wall by using an endoscopy tool that follows the camera.
Clinics say the procedure takes about 15 to 20 minutes and does not require general anaesthesia.
The resulting paralysis of the stomach muscles makes digestion of food slower, making the person feel fuller, and in theory, helping them lose weight.
However, like other ‘Botox’ procedures, it isn’t permanent, and the stomach muscles return to normal within about four to six months, meaning people can start to gain weight again.
An AbbVie spokesperson said: ‘AbbVie is aware of reports regarding the off-label use of botulinum toxins following a statement issued by the Ministry of Health, Turkey, on 11th March 2023.
‘We do not promote the use of any of our products for unapproved indications and while strictly only adhering to approved indications in all our activities.
‘Patient safety is our top priority and we are committed to meeting the highest standards of product quality.’
Health authorities in the UK have not yet issued a similar warning to their EU counterparts.
However, the Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office urges Britons to be incredibly cautious about getting surgery in the country and to research any operation or procedure carefully.
The Government states that at least 22 Britons have died in Turkey following medical tourism visits since the start of 2019.
In addition to the deaths, many more Britons have suffered health consequences from Turkish surgery, with the NHS and the taxpayer having to foot the bill.
Campaigners have even nicknamed Turkey the ‘capital of butchery’ with botched overseas surgery estimated to have cost the cash-strapped NHS £5million in four years.
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