Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Real Risk in Injections and Implants

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Real Risk in Injections and Implants

Article excerpt

A report by the head of British health services recommending better regulation of the cosmetic intervention industry is long overdue.

Someone in Britain having a nonsurgical cosmetic intervention has no more protection than someone buying a toothbrush. Most dermal fillers (the injections used to fill in wrinkles and plump up the skin) have no more controls than a bottle of floor cleaner.

These startling revelations come in a review of that booming industry (which the government said reached Pounds 2.3 billion, or $3.6 billion, in 2010) published last month by the medical director of the British health service, calling for tighter controls on treatments. Finally in Britain there is belated recognition that the cosmetic intervention industry should be better regulated.

Although there is widespread awareness that this sector has the potential to trigger a crisis as serious as the 2012 PIP breast implant scandal, when it emerged that as many as 47,000 British women might have been given faulty implants, very little has been done about it until now.

The lack of regulation has made campaigners suspect that there may have been an unspoken conviction among officials that if things go wrong, consumers, almost all of whom are women, simply have themselves to blame -- essentially that the medical complications of botched cosmetic treatments are just the trivial problems of vain and silly women.

Although surgical procedures conducted in a clinical setting are relatively well-regulated here, treatments like botox, dermal fillers, laser hair removal and skin peeling are not. For years the general approach has been one of "caveat emptor" -- broadly that if people are vain enough to undergo these procedures, then it is their own fault if problems develop (and while most botox and filler treatments are straightforward, complications can include blindness and necrosis of the skin).

Recently, that approach has been challenged -- partly the result of the rapid growth of the procedures, and partly because the laissez-faire attitude has begun to feel rather sexist. If, for example, a 55-year-old man bought a fast sports car, no one would suggest that it didn't need to be safe because it was simply a vanity purchase. The beauty industry, by contrast, has been dismissed as inconsequential and frivolous, and not worthy of serious scrutiny.

The PIP scandal revealed how seriously things could go awry and has pushed the government toward tightening control over that sector. The report by Sir Bruce Keogh recommends better regulation, better training and proper redress if things go wrong. It proposes that dermal fillers, for example, should be available only with a medical prescription, pointing out that currently, "anyone can set themselves up as a practitioner, with no requirement for knowledge, training or previous experience. …

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