Heathcare"It is not uncommon that a wing of the...

“It is not uncommon that a wing of the nose has to be amputated …” Concern is growing around clandestine botox injections

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It all started with a banal traffic check on Tuesday, January 4. That of a young woman seen driving in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, her cell phone stuck to her ear. The case, revealed by France Inter and confirmed to 20 Minutes, would have resulted in a simple fine and a withdrawal of points if, on approaching, the police had not seen, in the back seat, several boxes of syringes and banknotes. Nearly 5,000 euros, including the driver, aged 21, struggles to justify the source. Quickly, the investigations lead to an apartment transformed into a clandestine cabinet. Inside, a massage table and boxes of hyaluronic acid, a product that helps “plump” the lips, fill in wrinkles …

During their investigations, the investigators identify an Instagram account which they attribute to the reckless driver. On the page, various aesthetic operations are offered at discounted prices. You can, for example, for 170 euros, have hyaluronic acid injected around the lips, against about 300 to 400 euros at a doctor. The young woman was indicted on Friday, in particular for the illegal practice of medicine, covert work and trafficking in substances considered psychotropic. The Paris prosecutor’s office has also opened a judicial investigation. “There are many gray areas in this file: what products were injected, where did they come from, how many” patients “were there? », Lists a source close to the case.

Acceleration of cases since 2020

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In the Sirasco offices of the Judicial Police Organized Crime Intelligence and Analysis Service, no one was surprised. “Let’s say it illustrates a phenomenon that we are facing more and more frequently,” said Divisional Commissioner William Hippert, who is in charge. We’ve had a few cases like this since 2016, but from 2020 onwards, it’s really accelerated. According to him, a phenomenon carried by social networks and the fashions touted by some stars or influencers, such as the “Russian lips”, these swollen lips to the extreme.

No need for very extensive research to find, on Instagram or Snapchat, dozens of accounts offering this type of operation. Appointments are made by DM (private message) and the prices are often half the price of a professional. As for those who perform these operations – because they are generally young women – they often have no medical training. The legislation, however, is very strict: injections of botox, hyaluronic acid or any other “filler” product are reserved for cosmetic surgeons, dermatologists and, under certain conditions, dentists.

The difficult identification of victims

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If the phenomenon is still difficult to quantify, in November Sirasco issued a note to the various services to alert them to these practices which now affect all large cities. In Marseille, for example, at the end of September, it is a small clandestine “clinic” – in fact an apartment equipped with several boxes – in the heart of the 6th arrondissement, which has been updated. As in Paris, the case started a little by chance: two Russian nationals filed a complaint after being victims of an armed robbery and having been robbed of 5,000 euros in cash. Intrigued by the amount stolen, the investigators continued the investigations. During a search, they discovered several dozen vials of botox and hyaluronic acid. According to the first elements of the investigation, these young women had recently settled in the Marseille city after having “exercised” in various cities in France and Europe.

How many victims are there of these illegal injections? “It is very difficult to quantify, recognizes William Hippert. In these cases, there are, of course, no patient listings, everything is done by word of mouth, the payment is in cash. It is also difficult to trace the origin of products, often ordered on the Internet. Is it counterfeit? Is the injected product suitable for the treated area? Even badly injected real botox can have dramatic consequences. In her office, Dr Catherine Bergeret-Galley, general secretary of the National Syndicate of Plastic, Reconstructive or Aesthetic Surgery estimates that he sees about two women per week who suffer from sequelae following clandestine injections.

“It is not uncommon for a wing to be amputated from the nose”

Almost all of them tell the same story, having let themselves be tempted by the “miracle” effects of an injection touted by social networks, a friend or even their beautician. “You can not imagine the number of women who tell me to have gone to be waxed and who were offered, during the session, an injection of botox”, insists the practitioner. Most of the victims are young, around 25 years old, and some will suffer serious damage.

“Some are disfigured because a badly injected or badly chosen product can lead to necrosis or embolism. »Inoculated into a vessel for example, the product blocks the irrigation of the affected area, the skin darkens and dies. “It is not uncommon for a wing of the nose or a lower lip to be amputated because of necrosis,” insists Dr Catherine Bergeret-Galley. In some extreme cases, after injections in the nose or around the eyes, patients lose their sight because the product migrates into the central artery of the retina. In France, no death has been attributed to this type of practice but international studies report several deaths, in particular linked to sepsis or gangrene.

Up to two years’ imprisonment

Faced with these sometimes dramatic consequences, more and more doctors are making reports themselves. This was, for example, the starting point of a preliminary investigation carried out by the PJ of Rennes since October 2020, after a report from the ARS. Two women, who claimed to have completed a diploma course lasting a few days with a Russian doctor, are suspected of having practiced, in the space of a few months, nearly 1,000 injections of botox or hyaluronic acid in Brittany, but also in the Paris region and in Switzerland.

Injections, which were often performed in clients’ homes, were again offered at unbeatable prices. “The price that we offer in practice is also linked to the quality of the products injected, all are not the same”, insists Dr Catherine Bergeret-Galley. The investigation being about to end, a decision will be taken soon on possible prosecutions before the criminal court, specifies the prosecution. The illegal practice of medicine is punishable by two years’ imprisonment and a fine of 30,000 euros.

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Janice Thomas
Janice Thomas is a content editor at 24 News Recorder. She has 5 years of journalism experience and she he is a graduate of Wittenberg University and holds a master’s degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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