Large volumes of prescription products allegedly flown into Ireland illegally for use by beauticians

Supplier sources Botox from Korea which is collected from Newry, according to RTÉ documentary

Large volumes of prescription products are being flown into Ireland illegally for use by beauticians, according to a television investigation of the booming aesthetics industry.

Botox-type products and other prescription items are being posted to Northern Ireland and collected by beauticians from around the island, an RTÉ Investigates programme alleges.

One supplier sources large quantities of unlicensed Botox from Korea, which is then collected by customers from Newry, according to the programme to be broadcast on Monday evening.

“You put them in your bag, drive across the border. No police, no customs, no nothing,” the supplier is filmed telling an undercover reporter. “I have other girls who drive all the way from Clare, from Limerick, from Cork. All over the country. And they all go pick it up.


“See, the thing is, I used to have a girl in Newry who used to pick it up, then go across the border to Dundalk and then post. The other facility I have in Newry where I send all of my parcels, and all get picked up there. I have a lady in Clare, she sends the husband up because she is buying such a lot from me. She’s buying like £4,000-£5,000 pounds worth of stuff every month. There’s about 10-12 girls in Dublin (I supply).”

Botox, a registered brand name, is often used colloquially to describe all products containing botulinum toxin. By law, it can only be administered by a doctor, dentist or registered nurse.

While Botox is licensed for use in Ireland, the products featured in the investigation are not.

Seizures of illegal Botox products by the Health Products Regulatory Authority increased 400 per cent last year compared to the previous year. In the past three years, the HPRA has detained more than 10,000 dosage units of medicines containing botulinum toxin, hyaluronidase or lidocaine as part of its enforcement activities in monitoring the supply chain.

There have been four successful prosecutions for Botox in the past decade and 135 clinics have been told to remove unlawful content online.

Legislation to regulate non-surgical cosmetic services was introduced in 2016 but has yet to reach the Dáil. The Patient Safety (Licensing) Bill provides for the licensing of people performing many cosmetic procedures in aesthetics medicine.

There are no age limits on the administration of Botox; in England, it may not be given to under-18s.

Treatments offered by the aesthetic beauty industry include lip fillers, anti-wrinkle injections, thread-lifts and teeth procedures.

The HPRA says there is a growing trend of people offering aesthetic services outside the law, by offering prescription services without a prescription. “In such cases, they aim to take commercial advantage of consumers. Their primary concern is financial gain – not the health of consumers availing of these services.”

The regulator says anyone considering a cosmetic procedure containing botulinum toxin should ensure it will be carried out by a qualified practitioner.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times