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Skin treatments warning

UK effectively testing ground for new products


Woman preparing for cosmetic surgery

Always check the person carrying out your treatment has the right qualifications and experience

Britons could unwittingly be acting as guinea pigs for unlicensed cosmetic treatments from America, Which? warns today.

America’s stringent rules on cosmetic fillers – injectable substances used to reduce wrinkles – mean companies are turning to Britain to test out new products.

There are just seven cosmetic fillers that contain hyaluronic acid – found naturally in the skin – approved for use in the US, compared to around 65 available in Europe, estimates consultant dermatologist Dr Nick Lowe, who has clinics in the UK and US.

Every year 415,000 people undergo non-surgical cosmetic treatments such as fillers.

Weak regulations

This boom has led Which? to call on the government to strengthen the weak regulatory system that may allow potentially useless or even dangerous products through the net.

Isolagen – a treatment that used patients’ own cells to smooth out skin – is an example of weak regulation in practice 

Despite it being withdrawn in the US in 1999, Isolagen was still introduced to Britain in 2002. The company has since used information gathered in Britain to support its pending licence application in America.

Isolagen was not covered by any regulation in Britain at all meaning that, before it was withdrawn in 2006, the company was able to:

  • describe the product as ‘natural’ despite patients’ cells being stored in foetal calf serum;
  • claim it had been cleared by the health regulator, even though Isolagen didn’t fall under any British regulation;
  • use experiences of British patients in its American literature, stating that ‘retrospective study, clinical trials and treatment of patients in the UK’ would improve the manufacturing process for America.

System flaws

Which? health campaigner Jenny Driscoll said: ‘At the moment Britain is effectively a testing ground for cosmetic treatments.

‘Consumers here do not benefit from the effective and stringent regulation systems that Americans have. New products are coming onto the market all the time and the regulation needs to keep up with the science.

‘If the Department of Health doesn’t step up and recognise the flaws in the system, it is leaving Brits potentially at risk.’

Which? has been involved with an online support chat room, the Isolagen Action Group, where people affected by Isolagen can share experiences and problems.

If you want more information on Isolagen, or to contact other people who paid for the treatment, email us at campaigns@which.co.uk.

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