Calls to stop 'cowboy' BBL injectors amid fears of lethal complications

Campaigners urge government to ban unqualified practitioners from injecting botox and fillers amid public health fears.

Calls to stop ‘cowboy’ BBL filler injectors amid fear of ‘loss of life’

Campaigners are urgently calling for laws to clamp down on “cowboy” practitioners injecting botox and fillers amid a rise in botched procedures and fears that someone could die from complications.

It comes after a firm which carried out a liquid BBL on a woman in a hotel room which left her needing emergency medical treatment was banned from operating in Glasgow.

Environmental health officers served prohibition notices on two companies, Lift Aesthetics and London BBL Limited, and an associated individual practitioner Ricky Sawyer, preventing them from carrying out “high risk” Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL) and breast augmentation procedures anywhere within the city’s boundaries.

In a separate incident, thousands of pounds of unlicensed products used in cosmetic injections were seized from a warehouse in the north of Glasgow earlier this year.

Boxes of dermal fillers, needles and vials of botulinum toxin were seized by officers from the Criminal Enforcement Unit (CEU) of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in January.

Other local authorities in the UK received complaints after procedures similar to BBLs were carried out, resulting in people suffering serious health complications such as sepsis.

Healthcare professionals have called for a ban on the liquid BBL procedure, warning it may eventually result in “loss of life”.

Complications are on the rise

Healthcare groups warn over 'unscrupulous' injectors using counterfeit products

Currently, there are no laws in Scotland around who can offer cosmetic injections.

But the number of complaints about botched procedures carried out by people with no medical qualifications is on the rise.

Complications from fillers can include bleeding, bruising, infection and in rare cases, tissue necrosis and blindness.

Save Face, a UK-wide register of medical aesthetic practitioners, received 233 reports in 2021.

In 2022, that increased to 292.

The group issued a campaign to ban liquid BBLs in December 2023 after 350 women sought help from them with “life-altering” complications from the procedure in 18 months.

The group’s director, Ashton Collins told STV News the procedures are a “huge concern”.

“Over 50% have ended up with sepsis and told they are close to death,” she said, “This does need urgent attention and will end up in loss of life at some point.”

But it’s not just liquid BBLs – counterfeit and unlicenced medicine is another growing issue for the charity.

In 2023, Save Face received over 800 patient-reported complaints about anti-wrinkle injections. In 30% of cases, it’s believed fake products were used as the reactions were not consistent with licenced brands of botox.

Ms Collins said: “The public need to be mindful of cheap deals on Instagram because that’s where they tend to fall foul.

“If you see a £99 botox treatment, you need to recognise that to enable them to offer them at that price, corners are being cut. They are are taking a risk with your health and your appearance.

“We hear stories of procedures being carried out in hotel rooms, people’s lounges, using huge vats of unsterilised fillers, and decanting filler into syringes. The lack of infection control techniques is outrageous.

Jacqui Cooney accused the government of 'apathy' over unqualified injectors carrying out 'high-risk' treatments

“When people are suffering life-threatening complications, they don’t care.

“It needs to be criminalised.”

Nurse and aesthetic clinician Jacqui Cooney, a member of the UK Medical Aesthetics Safety Group, said they are “distressed” that legislation is not yet in place.

She told STV News: “If you don’t see a prescriber face to face, where is that medicine coming from? That’s the danger for the public.

“Even your simplest treatment can result in a complication, even in the safest hands. Something as similar as a minor infection cannot be treated unless a prescriber is involved.

“The complications from these treatments are life-threatening and life-changing.

“These are obviously people who are so desperate for treatment. They go for the deal they can afford because they have something in their body they don’t like. It’s very dismaying.”

Changes are under way elsewhere in the UK.

In England, a law was introduced three years ago, making it illegal for under 18s to receive botox and fillers, however no such law exists in Scotland.

The UK Government is also considering introducing a minimum standard of training for all injectors.

In Scotland, medical professionals who offer cosmetic treatments have had to register with Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) since 2017.

The government says the safety of non-surgical cosmetic procedures is 'a concern'Getty Images

It carries out inspections of clinics, takes enforcement action against practitioners not meeting its standards, and deals with complaints from clients.

However, non-medics do not need to register with HIS, or any other body, in order to offer the same treatments. 

Ms Cooney accused the government of “apathy” over the issue and urged ministers to “bring forward” discussions around legislation.

“They are not seeing the seriousness. They see it as elective, you are choosing to do that. But nevertheless, it’s a part of life,” she said.

“It’s imperative that it is brought forward and quickly. As a group of healthcare professionals, we are very concerned.

“At the end of the day, these people are vulnerable and we are not protecting them.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The safety of non-surgical cosmetics procedures is a concern and is something we are actively working on.

“It is a fast-changing sector, and any potential legislation has to be robust and future-proofed, so we are working with key stakeholders to get those details right.”

STV News has approached Ricky Sawyer, London BBL Limited and Lift Aesthetics for comment but has not received any responses.

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