Cosmetic filler industry must be strictly regulated, experts urge

Aesthetic Medicine
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The Irish faculty of the British College of Aesthetic Medicine, which promotes safe and ethical aesthetic treatments, has warned that Ireland’s booming cosmetic filler industry exists in a regulatory “no-man’s land,” where anyone can administer dermal fillers without having to have any qualifications.

There are fears that people who present to public hospitals with serious skin conditions from badly done filler could be denied crucial drugs, because the complication came from a private clinic.

Dermal filler, which is used to reduce wrinkles and lines, or change the shape of lips, cheeks and jaws, can cause serious complications if it is not administered correctly. According to the Irish faculty of the BCAM, this can include stroke, blindness and skin necrosis – the irreversible death of body tissue.

While a medical device commonly known as Botox is tightly regulated as a prescription-only medicine used by qualified doctors and dentists, popular dermal filler is not subjected to the same regulations despite being just as invasive as Botox. The BCAM has warned that “unlicensed aestheticians and even the general public can administer filler without proper oversight, potentially putting public health at risk.”

“Ireland has almost no regulation whatsoever in aesthetic medicine, leading to a ‘no-man’s land’ where unlicensed individuals can perform procedures without the necessary qualifications and oversight to ensure basic safety,” the Irish faculty of the BCAM said in a statement.

“Dermal filler, a medical device, has serious potential complications associated with its administration, including stroke, blindness and skin necrosis.”

If or when a patient suffers an adverse side effect from the unregulated use of dermal filler, they may need a drug called hyalase – which reverses filler complications. At the moment, hyalase is only available on prescription – meaning it can’t be provided by unregulated clinics that injected the filler in the first place.

“In the unfortunate event of infections caused by fillers, unlicensed aestheticians lack the ability to prescribe the reversal agent, antibiotics or steroids, which can lead to life-changing outcomes for those affected,” the Irish medical faculty warned.

Dr. Patrick Treacy, an advisor to the Irish faculty of BCAM, has recently questioned the medical ethics of public doctors refusing to diagnose or treat people who experienced complications from unregulated private cosmetic clinics.

“To turn away patients who present and request treatment is of debatable medical ethics and would probably not be accepted in any court of law in this jurisdiction,” he said.

Across Europe, unregulated clinics have faced prosecution for harm caused from badly done filler. The Irish faculty of the BCAM said that it was calling for stricter regulation and control of dermal fillers, surgical threads, and deep chemical peels to ensure that only qualified medical professionals perform these procedures. It has also asked that Ireland follow Australia’s example and standardise advertising for cosmetic procedures, to ensure patients know about the risks involved.

It wants robust new regulations for aesthetic courses to ensure that only qualified instructors teach these procedures.

It said it wants the Irish Medical Council and the Department of Health to act quickly to protect patients.

“Non-surgical aesthetic procedures are medical interventions and should be treated as such, with the utmost consideration for patient well-being,” it said.

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