Blood therapy

Beauty clinics boss says there is no evidence transfusion treatment works

Founder of chain carrying out transfusions that made four women seriously ill admits there is no evidence that the treatment has any benefits

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 May, 2015, 10:02am

As three women lay critically ill after paying HK$50,000 for "anti-cancer" blood transfusion therapy, the founder of the DR beauty company that carried out the treatment, Dr Stephen Chow Heung-wing, admitted there was no evidence it worked.

The fourth woman to fall ill following the therapy is in stable condition and has been revealed as Chow's elder sister.

Chow faced the press yesterday and said all four were referred by the chain to visit one particular doctor. Three had the transfusion on the same day.

He said his staff had promoted the treatment as a "health therapy". Customers have some of their own blood drawn which is then processed to harvest the "cytokine-induced killer cells", or CIK, found in the white blood cells.

These CIK cells are multiplied in a culture solution then injected into the patient along with their own blood after two weeks. The growing process takes place in a laboratory also owned by Chow.

CIK fights problematic cells in the body, and should be able to kill cancer cells in very early stages, he said: "There is no evidence for that. Theoretically it should work, but it is not proven."

Since early this year, DR has referred 40 people to several doctors for the same DC-CIK treatment, which costs from HK$50,000 to HK$70,000 per blood transfusion. It has now called a halt to the therapy.

Although CIK blood transfusions are normally used to prolong the survival rate of cancer patients after surgery, Chow denied it was a medical treatment.

He said the chain had signed disclaimers with the doctors and clients, but was unsure if staff members selling the treatments mentioned the risks.

Medical Council member Dr Choi Kin said Chow should be held responsible in court if the processed blood posed a risk to clients. "It doesn't matter if he has signed any disclaimers with the others. If he hasn't informed the doctors or clients of the risks involved, the disclaimers do not stand."

The doctor involved was likely to face charges of professional misconduct for doing a blood transfusion without knowing its benefits and risks, he said, adding: "The clients paid HK$50,000, but they were treated as white mice [in laboratories].

"They are injecting unknown substances into bodies. All such injections should be registered and proven to be safe."

Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man was not convinced the treatment was "health therapy". According to Medical Council rules, a doctor should go ahead with a treatment only when it is deemed necessary or beneficial for the patient, he said.

"We have to wait for the investigation results before deciding whether we can or should prosecute a chain," he said.

A statement by the Civic Party last night pointed out that as DR was a beauty salon rather than a medical clinic, it was not monitored by the health department and there was no law covering the quality of service received by its consumers or patients.

The Civic Party and Choi called on the government to ban beauty centres from performing medical procedures.

The elected legislator for the medical sector, Dr Leung Ka-lau, said he would be submitting a private bill in the Legislative Council targeting beauty salons.