Dermatologists warn of risks of IV glutathione
A group of dermatologists on Tuesday warned people hoping to acquire a fair complexion not to inject themselves with glutathione as they may instead suffer from bruising, gastritis or, worse, renal failure.
The drug is not meant for cosmetic use but to protect cancer patients from the adverse effects of chemotherapy, according to the Philippine Dermatological Society (PDS).
In a health forum in Quezon City, PDS officers aired the warning following the “alarming” increase in the number of clinics offering intravenous (IV) glutathione sessions in salons and malls, as well as the proliferation on social media of professionals, like nurses and midwives, offering such services.
Contrary to what is believed and being advertised, there is yet no strong scientific evidence to show that glutathione is indeed an effective skin-whitening agent, said Dr. Elle Asuncion, a member of the PDS glutathione advisory committee.
“None of the systemic glutathione-containing products around the world has been approved for skin whitening. High-quality clinical trials are needed to prove its efficacy as a skin whitener. Its safety as a skin whitener has not yet been firmly established,” Asuncion said.
The Food and Drug Administration has only approved the medical use of IV glutathione to protect cancer patients from the side effects of a platinum-based chemotherapy. It warned the public as early as May 2011 against the use of IV glutathione to whiten skin due to its possible adverse effects.
A recent PDS study documented at least 69 patients who suffered from complications due to IV glutathione use, ranging from dizziness, increased blood sugar and easy bruising to difficulty in breathing and gastritis.
In the worst case, a 34-year-old patient suffered from acute renal failure following “weekly infusion” of IV glutathione for three years.
According to Dr. Belen Dofitas, these cases should serve as a wake-up call to the public to stop patronizing IV glutathione and for the government to clamp down on such practice before somebody dies.
Asuncion reminded nurses and midwives, who reportedly earn on the side from injecting glutathione, that they might lose their licenses and charged with illegal practice of medicine, which is punishable by a fine of up to P10,000 or imprisonment of up to five years.
Dr. Angela Lavadia, PDS head, also urged local governments, especially those that have issued business permits to IV glutathione clinics, to check whether these establishments were using the drug for its intended purpose.
She appealed to colleagues in the medical profession to be more “judicious” in their use of drugs such as glutathione.
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