updated 1/26/2006 9:23:00 AM ET 2006-01-26T14:23:00

A doctor who injected himself and three others with a potentially deadly botulism toxin instead of the anti-wrinkle drug Botox was given the maximum sentence Wednesday of three years in prison.

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Dr. Bach McComb, 48, pleaded guilty Nov. 10 to charges of providing botulinum toxin type A, not approved for human use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Prosecutors say McComb was part of a conspiracy of doctors and companies seeking a cheaper alternative to Botox.

One of McComb’s victims, Eric Kaplan, testified at the sentencing hearing that he and his wife, Bonnie, were injected in 2004 with what they thought was Botox. They were paralyzed for weeks and nearly died. Both still have health problems.

“I was completely paralyzed. I couldn’t open my eyes. I could hear people talking,” said Kaplan, 53. “I thought I was at my own funeral. I thought I was dead.”

Kaplan testified that he considered McComb a “Dr. Frankenstein” because he appeared to be using experimental substances without patient consent.

Speaking in his defense, McComb apologized.

“I never intended to hurt or deceive anyone,” he said. “I wish I could turn back the clock and undo this nightmare, but of course I can’t.”

Other drug knockoffs
McComb’s license as an osteopathic physician was suspended at the time the injections were administered.

His lawyers argued that he did not realize the harm the shots might do — a contention underscored by his decision to inject himself and his girlfriend. They were treated at an emergency room for poisoning symptoms.

The case triggered a federal investigation into an Arizona company over the sale of unapproved Botox to more than 200 doctors nationwide. More than 1,000 patients were injected with those drug knockoffs, but none is known to have become ill.

Two doctors are to be sentenced Thursday in that case.

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