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Originally published June 5 2010

7-year-old girl dies after Botox injections

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) A 7-year-old girl died after a Botox injection paralyzed her lungs, her family says, and they are suing pharmaceutical company Allergan for wrongful death.

Botox is the trade name for the botulinim toxin, which is produced by the botulism bacteria. Botulinim toxin blocks nerve signaling, leading to muscle paralysis, and has been called the single most toxic protein known. In small doses, it is approved for use to smooth away facial wrinkles. Although it is not approved in the United States for the treatment of muscle spasms such as those caused by cerebral palsy, U.S. law allows doctors to prescribe drugs for unapproved uses if they wish.

Kristen Spears began Botox treatment for cerebral palsy-related spasms at age six. In November 2007, Spears died from pneumonia and respiratory failure, which her family claims was caused when the botulinim toxin spread to her lungs and weakened her breathing muscles.

Spears' case is the first Botox-related wrongful death lawsuit to reach trial. The company claims that the drug actually improved Spears' breathing, and that she died from complications of her underlying cerebral palsy. To counter this claim, the plaintiffs' lawyers will seek to prove that the Botox spread beyond its injection site in Spears' body.

According to the nonprofit watchdog group Public Citizen, there have been at least 180 reported cases of serious side effects from Botox and at least 16 related deaths. Concern over these side effects led the FDA to mandate a "black box" label for Botox in April 2009, warning that improper injection may allow the toxin to spread to other parts of the body, with potentially fatal consequences.

Records unsealed as part of the lawsuit show that as early as 2005, Allergan knew that serious side effects could result from use of the drug.

Allergan makes $1.3 billion a year in Botox sales, $47 million from its use as a cerebral palsy treatment alone.

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