MIAMI – Two Arizona doctors have been arrested on charges of creating and selling bootleg Botox (search) that left four people paralyzed.
Drs. Chad Livdahl (search) and Zarah Karim (search) of Tucson, Ariz., sold 3,081 vials of knockoff Botox to doctors nationwide for $1.5 million, while spending only about $30,000 to make and market it, U.S. Attorney Marcos Daniel Jimenez said Wednesday in announcing the arrests.
Also charged was one was of their alleged customers, Dr. Bach McComb (search), a Florida osteopath who investigators said accidentally paralyzed himself, his girlfriend and two others with injections of botulism toxin 10 times stronger than Botox.
Their hospitalizations Thanksgiving weekend launched the investigation that resulted in Tuesday's indictments and arrests.
Livdahl and Karim were arrested in Arizona, while McComb remains hospitalized.
Botox is the brand name for a government-approved wrinkle-remover. It uses a weakened version of the lethal botulism toxin to temporarily paralyze nerves that cause wrinkles.
Livdahl and Karim allegedly created a black-market form of Botox using laboratory vials of raw botulism toxin that were intended for research purposes. About 200 doctors received the knockoff Botox, including 13 in South Florida, Jimenez said.
Livdahl, Karim and McComb were charged with conspiracy, fraud and misbranding a drug. Livdahl was also charged with perjury. If convicted on all charges, they could face decades in prison and millions in fines.
The government also wants to seize $1.5 million in suspected profits.
Also indicted were four Tucson companies owned by Livdahl — Toxin Research International Inc., Powderz Inc., Z-Spa Inc. and The Cosmetic Pharmacy Inc.
Livdahl is a microbiologist, while Karim, his girlfriend, works for the corporation.
Livdahl has denied any wrongdoing. He has said that his vials of the toxin were labeled for research only and that doctors were warned not to use the substance on humans as a substitute for Botox.
J. David Bogenshutz, an attorney for McComb, had no comment.