Physicians call for tighter control of botulinum toxin strains

So Jae-hyeon  Published 2018.04.12  16:33  Updated 2018.04.12 16:33


The medical community has come forth to urge the health authorities to monitor strains of botulinum toxin more strictly.

The Korean Association for Laser, Dermatology, and Trichology on Wednesday issued a statement titled, “Urging to Enhance Management of Botulinum Strains.”

“We discovered that strains of botulinum, which are raw materials of botulinum toxin products, were illegally distributed in Korea. Leaving the illegal distribution of botulinum strains unpunished is equivalent to neglecting abuse of biological weapons that threaten national security and public safety,” the KALDAT said in the statement.

It went on to say, “As we are using related pharmaceutical products to treat patients, we strongly demand that the government come up with a thorough plan to monitor botulinum strains as soon as possible.”

Established in 2004, the KALDAT is an academic group of experts in laser therapy, hair loss treatment, obesity, and micro-invasive cosmetic surgeries using botulinum toxin and fillers.

The statement appears to raise the awareness of the danger of the illegal use of botulinum toxin.

Botulinum strains are extremely lethal that just 1 gram of them can kill 1 million people. Some media reports said recently that a broker was trading Botulinum strains at 400 million won ($373,938) per capsule, however.

Botulinum toxin strains designated as biochemical weapons were being imported into the country through illegal brokers, a news report said.

The problem is that the regulator gives weak penalties for illegally importing dangerous strains, observers said.

According to Rep. Kwon Chil-seung of the Democratic Party of Korea, 90 entities including companies, government agencies and universities manufactured or held biological agents such as cholera and anthrax as of September 2017.

Among them, 12 violated the Act on Prohibition of Chemical and Biological Weapons between 2012 and 2017 but seven received suspension of the indictment, and one was clear from charges.

A company, for instance, purchased botulinum strains from the U.S. for research purposes in July 2016 but did not keep the 30-day deadline for the reporting to the authorities. The company was indicted for violating Article 13-2 of the Biochemical Weapons Prohibition Act, but the indictment was suspended with no charge.

Another firm breached the law by not reporting to the authorities about the manufacturing of botulinum strains in January 2016. However, the case was closed with suspension of indictment.

“Others were charged for not documenting the holding of strains, but many of them received a slap on the wrist,” Rep. Kwon said. “The authorities should apply stricter rules on dangerous strains that can be manufactured as biochemical weapons and lethal to the public. The government should also reinforce related penalties.”

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