British women warned against ‘cowboy’ cosmetic fixes

2 October, 2007

Women in Britain seeking to trim down the signs of ageing with quick-fix cures, beware. You could be acting as guinea pigs for unproven and ineffective cosmetic treatments that have been banned in the United States.

From “lunchtime breast augmentation” to “fat-melting” treatments, scores of untested new products are freely available and putting consumers at risk, according to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons.

Meanwhile, a lack of regulation of non-surgical treatments such as Botox injections and dermal fillers has allowed “cowboy” practices to thrive, the association said.

Every year, 415,000 people in the United Kingdom have non-surgical cosmetic treatments, but concerns have been raised about hairdressers, dentists and beauticians administering injections and fillers without proper training.

Britain’s Ministers decided in 2007 against introducing legislation to control the market and instead opted to let the industry regulate itself. But surgeons say that this has resulted in useless or dangerous products being marketed directly to shoppers in salons or via the internet.

At a meeting of the of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons in London on September 30, 2007, Douglas McGeorge, its chairman, highlighted those products that had few scientific credentials, including a breast-enlargement procedure known as ‘celution,’ whereby fat or stem cells from the body are injected into the breast.

Fat-melting treatments known as ‘lipodissolve’ or ‘lipostabil’ are available on the internet despite having been banned by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority, Douglas McGeorge said.

Other “anti-ageing” injections of vitamins, minerals and herbs (known as mesotherapy), or treatments involving radiowaves, are being offered despite a lack of scientifically valid studies showing that they worked or had any long-term effects.

Isolagen, a dermal filler withdrawn from the US market in 1999 but offered to British customers three months ago, has been the subject of a legal action against the manufacturers by a group of 50 women who spent thousands of pounds on the product but found that it was ineffective or caused health problems.

Norman Waterhouse, specialist tutor in aesthetic surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “In no other industry or branch of medicine would such a situation be tolerated. Treatments like isolagen are not subjected to the proper testing or analysis because they are not classed as a drug and in many cases we do not have evidence to show their effects or whether they are safe for even 3 to 5 years.”

Botox injections, which are used to reduce facial wrinkling, were also cited as a treatment where lack of regulation could be harmful.

According to Mel Braham, chairman of Harley Medical Group, a chain of 17 clinics, the United Kingdom needs an equivalent of the United States’ Federal
Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure that all new treatments have a single approval channel for both safety and efficacy before being introduced to the
UK. The lack of regulation was letting UK patients down, he alleged.





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