Authorities under fire over bust-boosting treatment
Mary Ann Benitez and Nina Li
Health authorities have been accused of ignoring legislators' calls to regulate medical treatments such as the breast-augmentation gel that has caused local women to lose their breasts.
A mainland health official, Vice-Minister of Health Huang Jiefu , now visiting Hong Kong, said yesterday he believed 'illegal' beauty salons, rather than mainland hospitals, were offering the bust-boosting gel.
The Consumer Council said on Thursday at least 53 women sought help following severe bruising, swelling and pain after having been injected with the toxic gel, PAAG, or hydrophilic polyacrylamide.
Six women had lost one or both breasts, the council said. Ninety per cent of the women had the treatment on the mainland, with the rest in Hong Kong and one in Thailand.
Substances used for breast augmentation are classified as medical devices internationally, but a Department of Health spokesman said there was no requirement for PAAG to be registered.
The compound, commonly known on the mainland as 'Amazing Gel', is a combination of synthetic polymer and water. It is non-biodegradable and cannot be absorbed into the body.
The Department of Health said the injection of PAAG, which is not a pharmaceutical product, was not an offence at present.
'But the department is working with Customs and Excise Department on how the use of this material can be banned under the current regulatory regime,' a spokesman said yesterday.
Manufacturers could apply for voluntary listing, but the department had not received any application for PAAG, he said.
But legislator for the medical sector Kwok Ka-ki warned such incidents would continue because the government had insisted that self-regulation was better than legislating medical devices.
'We have discussed this issue in the past two years and each time the government said they had done something about it. They said voluntary registration was sufficient,' Dr Kwok said, adding he might call a special meeting of the health services panel to address the problem.
Since the alert went out on Thursday, 13 inquiries have been received on the department hotline 2575-1221.
Dr Huang said he had discussed the incident with Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow Yat-ngok.