Thursday, August 21, 2008

More Bogus Botox in Florida

I think Botox is terrific. I really do. But like any powerful tool, it's critical that it be administered by someone who's properly trained...and actually licensed to practice medicine!

Just last week I received this email alert [see copy below] from the Florida Board of Medicine about a man in Coral Gables, Florida who has been injecting people with Botox in his home (!). The problem? He's not a doctor...or any other kind of licensed practitioner, for that matter:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Communications Office

August 11, 2008 (850) 245-4111


TALLAHASSEE— The Florida Department of Health’s (DOH) South Florida Unlicensed Activity (ULA) Unit announced that their joint investigation with the Coral Gables Police Department Special Investigations Section (CGPD) has led to the arrest of Juan J. Aguirrechu in connection with the unlicensed practice of medicine, a third degree felony and punishable by up to five years in prison.

A CGPD investigation that was initiated from an anonymous tip indicated Aguirrechu was practicing medicine from his residence located at 5627 Granada Blvd. in Coral Gables. Specifically, it was alleged that Aguirrechu was representing himself as a doctor and was providing Botox injections to “patients” he would see at his home. A ULA investigation determined that Aguirrechu holds no form of licensure from the Florida Department of Health. The joint investigation ultimately led to the issuance of an arrest warrant. On Tuesday, August 5, 2008 CGPD detectives contacted Aguirrechu at his house and took him into custody without incident.

DOH has several resources to combat unlicensed activity:

· Consumers are encouraged to use DOH’s Web site where they can conveniently view the license information of their health care practitioner.

· Complaints may be filed anonymously by completing and mailing the complaint form on the DOH Web site or calling 1-877-HALT-ULA to have a form mailed to you.

The Florida Department of Health’s (DOH) unlicensed activity program protects Florida residents and visitors from the potentially serious and dangerous consequences of receiving medical and health care services from an unlicensed person. DOH’s Division of Medical Quality Assurance (MQA) investigates and refers for prosecution all unlicensed health care activity complaints and allegations. The unlicensed activity unit works in conjunction with law enforcement and the state attorney’s offices to prosecute individuals practicing without a license. In many instances, unlicensed activity is a felony level criminal offense. More importantly, receiving health care from unlicensed people is dangerous and could result in further injury, disease or even death.

The mission of the Department of Health and MQA is to promote, protect and improve the health of all people in Florida. Working in conjunction with 22 boards and seven councils, MQA regulates six types of facilities and more than 40 health care professions. MQA evaluates the credentials of all applicants for licensure, issues licenses, analyzes and investigates complaints, inspects facilities, assists in prosecuting practice act violations, combats unlicensed activity and provides credential and discipline history about licensees to the public. Visit for additional information about MQA.

You can read the news reports about this guy here, for example.

Here are some questions that come to mind, though, that aren't answered in the email or the news reports:

  • Was it even real Botox? Botox Cosmetic can only be legally purchased through Allergan, the company who manufactures Botox here in the U.S. Allergan requires proof of our medical licensure before they'll open an account. Recall that in 2004 several people in south Florida ended up on ventilators with acute botulism after being injected with an unapproved and illegal bulk research-grade botulinum toxin.

    On the otherhand, we routinely receive offers (via fax) from companies outside the U.S. to purchase cut-rate supplies of Botox, Juvederm, Restylane, etc. much less expensively than by ordering through the authorized distributors. This, too, is illegal under FDA rules (despite claims to the contrary on those companies' web sites). I presume that further investigation will uncover Mr. Aguirrechu's source of "Botox."
  • Why in the world would you trust a guy to inject your face with Botox when he doesn't even have an office? Shouldn't it raise a few red flags when he's treating people out of his home? [It's a nice home, by the way, valued at just under a million dollars] Have gas prices gotten so high that people need to save a few bucks on Botox by going to this guy? (I'm presuming he was inexpensive, but I haven't found any news reports that have uncovered what he was charging).

This guy, of course, isn't the first person to illegally practice and he won't be the last, unfortunately. Who can forget, for example, the recent reports that Priscilla Presley had been the victim of an unlicensed practitioner who injected her face with industrial-grade silicone?

As usual, though, caveat emptor and please be sure to check into the credentials of the person wielding the needle or the knife.

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