Transcript - ABC Radio - Non-surgical cosmetic procedures

Reforms to protect patients from rogue non-surgical cosmetic procedure providers are well overdue, AMA Queensland Vice President Dr Nick Yim has told ABC Radio.

Transcript: AMA Queensland Vice President Dr Nick Yim, ABC Queensland, Drive with Alex Easton, Tuesday 5 September 2023

Subject: Regulator review of non-surgical cosmetic procedures

ALEX EASTON:   Injectables like Botox and fillers are now set to be included in an upgraded health regulator review targeting rogue operators in the cosmetics industry. As part of a year-long investigation, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency  - or Ahpra - and the Medical Board of Australia Hotline has had more than 400 calls, 179 complaints and so far 14 doctors have been banned from giving treatments and 12 have had restrictions on their practice.

Dr Nick Yim is the Vice President of AMA Queensland. Firstly, are you able to update us on the changes that the industry will see?

DR NICK YIM:   So you're right. It's been a challenging landscape with cosmetic surgery and, as you described, there has been a number of complaints to the regulators. These cosmetic surgery reforms are long overdue and are very supported by the Australian Medical Association, because with cosmetic surgery there is quite a big range, so you can have the non-surgical aspect of Botox and fillers down to the surgical term. We do need to protect our consumers, we do need to protect the public, and I think these reforms are welcome.

ALEX EASTON:   I think when most people hear the term cosmetic surgery, they think that they'll be seeing a surgeon or something like that. But things like Botox and fillers have become really commonplace. You see advertising for them all over, so often you see billboards and things like that for places that you can go get these injections. They have really become quite mainstream. Do you think that the average public realises the potential risk for some of these procedures?

DR NICK YIM:   You're spot on. When we're going down the main street, sometimes you see a lot of advertising for cosmetic procedures. And the general public, sometimes they're just not aware of what the risks can involve. It's not like going down to the shop to get maybe a haircut or a facial. Some of these are invasive procedures that can have side effects and complications. Sometimes Botox injections in the wrong areas can cause droopy eyelids, crooked eyebrows, drooling or infections at the injection site. We do need to ensure we are protecting the public and also protecting those consumers.

ALEX EASTON:   How concerned is the AMA about the prevalence of these kind of medical procedures, I guess, for want of a better word, but how concerned is the AMA about who is delivering these medical procedures?

DR NICK YIM:   The key component here is making sure that we are promoting these products to the public in a safe manner. The public and the consumers need to be fully aware of the risks and potential side effects. We need to ensure that medical practitioners, when they're doing those procedures, they do consent the patients fully. And we support the reforms about who can call themselves a surgeon because that's something that can add confusion in the general public.

ALEX EASTON:   When you look at something like Botox, say, and the prevalence of its advertising, would you like to see changes to that?

DR NICK YIM:   It is concerning. There's a lot of advertising of Botox especially on social media, on the Internet space amongst social influencers, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram. Unfortunately, the challenge there is a lot of those are international spaces, so we can't really regulate those. But a lot of it is education to our public. If we can protect the public by regulating providers et cetera, and ensuring informed consent, that's going to be a benefit for the consumers and general public.

ALEX EASTON:   I have seen floated by a number of different groups that the use of testimonials is something that should be curbed. What are your thoughts to that?

DR NICK YIM:   With the use of testimonials, Ahpra already have their own set of guidelines that we as medical practitioners do need to follow and abide by. It would be good to see those being up-to-date and promoted to the general public, so they can do their own research.

ALEX EASTON:   A lot of this seems to be, you know, get a kind of broader perspective and learn a bit more and make sure you're aware of what the risks are and things like that. If someone was considering any of these medical interventions, where would you send them to get good, solid advice that wasn't coming from someone who is potentially going to be making money out of them?

DR NICK YIM:   The key component with any procedure, whether it be surgical or non-surgical cosmetic procedures, please get the advice. Obviously speak to multiple providers, but at the same time, please speak to your GP about the potential risks and benefits of any treatments. Often I have patients come in to see me asking about what my thoughts are with regards to cosmetic procedures overseas because the cost might be cheaper. I always advise them that in Australia there are protections. We do have great medical therapies to manage complications because not all cosmetic procedures are 100 per cent safe. There are risks involved and the individuals need to be aware of those risks before proceeding with those procedures.

ALEX EASTON:   What do you say to the kind of label that things like Botox and other injectables or fillers, all of those kind of procedures, that they are kind of slippery slope into more complex and potentially even more problematic cosmetic procedures?

DR NICK YIM:   This is a really challenging landscape. We are seeing a rise of cosmetic procedures, both non-surgical and surgical. The key message for consumers and the general public is please do your research. If you have any questions, speak to the professionals who are providing those procedures, but at the same time, speak to your GP about the risks and benefits of any particular treatment, surgical or non-surgical.

ALEX EASTON:   Dr Nick Yim, I really appreciate you talking us through this. It's complicated and hopefully we get a little bit more guidance on it. And yeah, as you said, you know, in the end it's about protecting people.

DR NICK YIM:   Yeah, absolutely. Always a pleasure.

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