A growing number of botched dermal filler procedures in the UK has prompted plastic surgeons to warn that better regulation is needed to protect patients from rogue practitioners.
The British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons made the intervention with the support of other industry bodies. It preceded a parliamentary debate on Tuesday on the dangers posed by non-surgical procedures such as dermal fillers, injections used to fill out wrinkles and creases in the skin.
MPs are considering concerns over increased risk after a report found there were 934 complaints about non-surgical procedures in 2018, up from 378 two years earlier.
Of those complaints, 616 were for dermal fillers and 387 of those who reported a botched job had to get corrective procedures to fix the problem, with 11 people ending up in accident and emergency departments as a result.
On Tuesday, Alberto Costa, the MP for South Leicestershire, will lead the debate in Westminster Hall. “My interest in this matter stemmed following a meeting with my constituent Rachael Knappier, who suffered a terrible injury following a botched lip filler treatment,” the Conservative MP said. “Not only was I shocked to hear Rachael’s experience but similarly I was very concerned to hear that there are almost no regulations or safeguards in place for those who receive these kind of non-surgical treatments.”
Costa added that these types of procedures were readily available on the high street and could be administered by those with no medical or formal training, but “can pose a very serious health risk if not carried out properly”.
Doctors and MPs are calling for dermal fillers to be considered medicines, which would mean that only those with a medical or prescribing qualification would be able to prescribe them. They are also calling for the development of clinical guidelines on the use of dermal fillers and better education on the risks around them.
Dermal filler products are classified as medical devices in Europe, which means they do not undergo the same level of clinical trials as medicines such as Botox (botulinum toxin). In the US, tighter Food and Drug Administration regulations mean only 10 dermal fillers are approved for use, compared with 160 in Europe – many of which will have been tested in an extremely limited number of patients.
Niall Kirkpatrick, a BAPRAS member and leading consultant craniofacial plastic surgeon at the Portland hospital in London, said: “I see significant complications arising from the use of dermal fillers in almost every clinic I hold.”
Kirkpatrick is a specialist in correcting dermal filler complications and said the materials used by individuals who have little to no medical training in the procedure were often “cheap, even bought from the internet, and unregulated”.
He added: “Due to a lack of patient records however, it is often difficult to track exactly which materials have been injected into the patient and by whom.”
Dr Tamara Griffiths of the British Association of Dermatologists agreed that tightening regulation around fillers would make it harder for an “untrained individual to get hold of them in the first place”.
Simon Eccles, a specialist in complex craniofacial surgery at Chelsea and Westminster hospital, stressed the need for patient education on the procedures: “Most patients that come to see me with filler complications have not been informed of the risks. There needs to be a greater push for education for both the public and for those administering the filler injections.”