Burns, adverse reactions, and serious infections have prompted Australia’s medical authorities to tighten restrictions on cosmetic operations such as Botox and fillers.
The initiative aims to boost consumer trust and protection by focusing on irresponsible industry players and setting more stringent standards on the potential benefits and risks of such procedures.
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) are at the forefront of this campaign, preparing to closely monitor a wide range of practitioners — from doctors and nurses to dentists — who administer a variety of treatments such as fillers, anti-wrinkle injections, and fat-dissolving procedures.
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Martin Fletcher, AHPRA’s chief executive officer told the Sydney Morning Herald that the once-niche market of cosmetic injectables has exploded into a mainstream phenomena due to increased accessibility and affordability.
However, this growth has resulted in a tendency, boosted by social media hype, to celebrate the benefits of these procedures while avoiding a candid assessment of the potential concerns. „We see this trend that plays up the benefits [of injectables] but they don’t address the risks, they emphasise the benefits and downplay the risks,“ added Fletcher.
This, Fletcher emphasises, is the story they seek to change by developing these rules, establishing a more balanced, realistic perspective. To increase transparency, the proposed restrictions would prohibit inflated testimonials and unrealistic portrayals, such as before-and-after photos.
The targets also include ensuring practitioners have the necessary training to diagnose underlying mental health disorders, improving pre-procedure consultations, and requiring therapies to be provided solely by qualified health experts.
A valid prescription from an authorised prescriber, such as a nurse practitioner, dentist, or doctor, is required for cosmetic injections. The prescriber is supposed to consult with the patient to clarify risks and potential adverse effects, but Fletcher claims that this does not always occur.
AHPRA and the MBA are keen on reducing instances in which clients, under the influence of aggressive marketing methods, end up investing much more in procedures than was originally envisaged.
„We have seen some worrying examples of up-selling, a patient goes in for a treatment they can afford, and they’re coming out having spent far more than they should have,” Fletcher added.
Fletcher noted that a significant proportion of the changes suggested in the Independent review of the regulation of medical practitioners practising cosmetic surgery report, which was published in September 2022, had been adopted.
This includes setting up a Cosmetic Hotline to handle complaints and concerns. Since its debut, the hotline has received 428 calls from patients with complaints about their treatments and from other doctors who have expressed concerns about other practitioners.
These have resulted in 179 formal complaints and 14 doctors no longer or seriously limited from performing cosmetic surgery. Following an investigation, a further 12 people were dealt with restrictions.
The public comment on the revised standards is set to begin next month, with a full rollout scheduled for early 2024.