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 contracted botulism after receiving the injections at two separate clinics. No British cases have been reported yet.
The condition, which can be life-threatening, is caused by toxins produced by bacteria. can can lead to paralysis if not treated urgently.
All patients were given stomach or gastric Botox, which paralyzes the muscles of the digestive system, slowing digestion to help them beat the bulge.
Turkish clinics offer patients who want to lose weight the injections, which are usually used to remove 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 (file image)
This is a fraction of the price of similar weight loss procedures in Britain and the US.
All cases were registered between February 22 and March 1, 2023.
Both botox and botulism originate from toxins produced by Clostridium botulinum bacteria, and these toxins are highly dangerous.
But it is generally safe when used by a trained medical professional to paralyze muscles for a variety of treatments.
However, if the toxins are administered incorrectly, they can cause symptoms such as weakness, difficulty breathing and/or swallowing.
This can lead to paralysis and even death if severe and left untreated, and up to one in 10 cases of botulism is 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 has undergone a Botox weight loss procedure in Turkey within the suspicious dates to contact a medical professional immediately, especially if they begin to experience symptoms of botulism.
Most of the cases for which data are known have been reported in Turkey itself (53), followed by Germany (12), with one more in Austria and Switzerland.
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, which issued the alert, said it was unclear what exactly had caused the botulism.
Turkish authorities had traced 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 increasingly concerned that the NHS is helping to subsidize poor care abroad, with the bill costing the taxpayer an estimated £4.8m over the past four years.
Here MailOnline details some of the most striking differences in some cosmetic procedures in the UK and Turkey.
Cosmetic procedures in Turkey are often bargain prices compared to their British counterparts. Prices for Turkey and the UK were obtained from various websites (model is a stock image)
They also found that while licensed Botox was used in clinics, these products were not specifically approved for the treatment of obesity.
They have since suspended all activities within the relevant departments of the hospitals and launched new investigations against the parties involved.
Stomach or gastric Botox is promoted by Turkish cosmetic and weight loss clinics as a cheaper and easier option for people to lose weight compared to complete surgery.
The procedure costs as little as £850, according to medical tourism booking agencies who arrange for Britons to undergo surgery in Turkey.
During the procedure, the endoscope, a long tube with a camera on the end, is inserted into the patient’s mouth to reach the stomach.
Botox is then injected into the stomach wall using an endoscopy tool that follows the camera.
Clinics say the procedure takes 15-20 minutes and does not require general anesthesia.
The resulting paralysis of the stomach muscles slows down the digestion of food, making the person feel fuller and, theoretically, helping them lose weight.
However, like other Botox procedures, it is not permanent and the stomach muscles return to normal in about four to six months, which means that people can begin to gain weight again.
UK health authorities have yet to issue a similar warning to their EU counterparts.
However, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Government Development Office urges Britons to be incredibly cautious when having surgery in the country and to carefully investigate any operation or procedure.
The government says at least 22 Britons have died in Turkey following medical tourism visits since early 2019.
In addition to the deaths, many more Britons have suffered health consequences from Turkish surgery, with the NHS and taxpayers having to foot the bill.
Activists have even dubbed Turkey the ‘capitol of carnage’ and a botched surgery abroad is estimated to have cost the cash-strapped NHS £5m over four years.