Irish News: Illicit Cross Border Trade in Botox

Danielle Lowe
By Danielle Lowe

Danielle Lowe is the Marketing Manager for, ( the UK’s largest aesthetic information website. 

A clandestine trade involving Botox and similar products across borders persists, as unqualified practitioners manage to obtain cosmetic materials for the Irish market, according to an investigation by RTÉ.

RTÉ Investigates reporter Pamela Fraher goes undercover as a beauty salon owner to examine the regulation of the Irish beauty industry, with illegal Botox and the sale of prescription medicine widely available. Fraher successfully acquired products shipped from England to a store in Newry.

“You can personally go to Newry, pick them up, and that way it doesn’t go through customs,” reporter Pamela Fraher was told in an audio message sent via Whatsapp by a London-based “prescriber”.

He added: “That’s it. End of story. You don’t have to pay duty because you put them in your bag and drive right across the border... no customs, no police there or nothing.”

Ireland’s Health Products Regulatory Authority states doctors, dentists and registered nurses under the direction of medical doctors or dentists are permitted to inject botulinum toxin products.

The prescriber of the products, based in London, claimed he was sending 40-50 parcels a week into Ireland. The RTÉ investigation also found unlicensed products other than Botox were being moved into Ireland.

A supplier based in the UK stated that he frequently transported substantial quantities of unlicensed products from South Korea into the country.

Ms Fraher, using the name ‘Jen’, the supposed owner of a beauty salon, said she picked up products from a “busy shop” in Newry.

“Months into the investigation, I had arrived at this point in my journey- a busy shop across the border, discreetly asking the girl behind the till if can I speak to either of the two names I was given by the ‘prescriber’,” she reported.

“She replied asking if I am ‘Jen’. I said yes, and in less than a minute, I was back out the door with my supplies.

“Once out of sight, I opened the package. Inside, there were bottles of botulinum toxin. I was also sold fat dissolving agents and dermal filler.”

“It’s just so wrong,” Kathy Maher, former president of the Irish Pharmacy Union, told RTÉ.

"Everything from he’s not a prescriber to how he obtains the product. It’s an unlicensed product. We don’t know what’s in it, we don’t know the standards by which it’s manufactured, we don’t know the dose, we don’t know anything about it,” she said.

“And then how he’s supplying it into the Irish supply chain is really shocking. He doesn’t have a wholesale licence, so he’s not legally allowed to supply it into Ireland… there’s no regard given to the end user, which is the patient.”

RTÉ Investigates: Botox & Beauty At Any Cost’ is can be accessed via the RTÉ on-demand service here.

What do you think of the investigation? Will the government licensing scheme make a difference in the next year or two?

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