Experts are calling for tighter regulations of anti-ageing injections amid fears that harmful dermal fillers could be the next scandal in the cosmetic surgery industry.
Following the recent breast implant scare that linked faulty implants made by French company Poly Implant Prostheses (PIP) with a number of cancer cases, Sally Taber, director of Independent Healthcare Advisory Services, has warned that dermal fillers could cause a similar scandal unless action is urgently taken.
"Unless we get this sorted out dermal fillers will be the next disaster," she told The Times.
"The next thing will be that a patient will have a dangerous dermal filler that's come in from China and it will be 'How on earth did we let this happen?' We need to work together to cut out some of the appalling practice."
Nigel Mercer, consultant plastic surgeon and former president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), told The Huffington Post UK that experts have been raising these concerns for some time now.
“We’ve been concerned about fillers for two or three years or so now because they are CE marked but they are not regulated as a medicine. We have been saying for some time that you can get a CE mark for how the thing is produced but not in terms of its safety or efficacy and the PIP scandal shows that extremely well.”
Warning of the dangers of this loophole, he said: “If someone was unscrupulous, they could change the formulation as they wish and then people will be having all sorts of stuff injected into them.”
Mercer believes that fillers should be prescription only, as Botox is, and as they are in the US. This means they would be subjected to health checks and safety checks before being allowed on the market as they are with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in America.
As many as 160 injectable fillers are certified for sale in the UK, compared to only six licensed in the US.
Mercer said that the government should ask the question why so many fillers have been licensed in the UK compared to the States and stressed that it wouldn’t take a great deal for the government to implement the move; they would simply need to reclassify the fillers as medicines.
"The government has been against any form of extra regulations but this isn’t an extra regulation, it is simply changing one group of products from one group of regulations in Europe to another group of regulations. You’re taking them out of CE marking into proper medicines regulatory authorities, which would include safety testing."
He warned, "It is even easier to make a filler in a garage in Krakow in Poland than it is to make a breast implant."
A survey of BAAPS members found that a quarter of them had seen patients with complications from permanent facial fillers that were so severe they required surgery to correct them, according to The Times.
The dermal fillers market is largely unregulated in the UK at present and no medical training is required to inject them. Some companies even sell fillers online for patients to inject themselves at home.
Last year it was reported that ‘pumping parties’ or ‘Botox parties’ where women are administered with illegal silicone injections by unqualified practitioners at house parties, are also on the rise in both the UK and the US.
Amid fears for 40,000 British women who are thought to have received silicone implants made by Poly Implant Prothese (PIP), shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has called on companies to honour their responsibilities and offer help to patients who have gone under the knife.