DOH warns vs illegal skin treatments

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
DOH warns vs illegal skin treatments
“First, we would like to remind people who are into this Lenten tradition of having themselves crucified that this activity may cause you harm,” DOH officer-in-charge Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said yesterday.

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) cautioned the public against getting unauthorized glutathione and stem cell infusion following the death of a woman who underwent these skin treatments.

Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa said the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved IV glutathione for skin whitening. 

“It’s off-label use and illegal,” he said in a briefing Tuesday. 

While stem cell treatments are offered in the Philippines under strict regulations, Herbosa urged the public to be cautious and choose accredited clinics. 

“To avoid ending up in a morgue due to beautification or rejuvenation procedures, please check for the list of licensed stem cell clinics. If they are not on the list, that is illegal,” he said.

This warning comes after a 39-year-old woman from Quezon City died hours after receiving glutathione and stem cell treatments. The woman had a chronic kidney disease, according to the police. 

The victim’s death certificate stated the immediate cause of her death as anaphylactic shock—or a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction. Glutathione and stem cell intravenous infusion was identified as the antecedent cause.

FDA warning

In an advisory issued in 2019, the FDA said it had not approved any injectable products for skin lightening. Injectable glutathione is only permitted as an adjunct treatment in cisplatin chemotherapy. 

“To date there are no published clinical trials that have evaluated the use of injectable glutathione for skin lightening. There are also no published guidelines for appropriate dosing regimens and duration of treatment,” it said. 

According to the FDA, injectable glutathione for skin lightening carries risks of toxic effects on the liver, kidneys, and nervous system, along with the potential for Steven Johnson Syndrome. 

This treatment is sometimes paired with intravenous Vitamin C, which can form kidney stones if the urine is acidic, the agency added. High doses of Vitamin C have resulted in hemodialysis in patients with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency.

Concerns were also raised about a potential link of glutathione use to long-term skin cancer risk.

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