One woman died and three were critically ill after paying HK$50,000 in October 2012 for "anti-cancer" blood transfusion therapy at a beauty centre. In the procedure, blood is drawn from the patient, then processed to harvest the "cytokine-induced killer cells", or CIK, found in the white blood cells. The CIK cells are multiplied in a culture solution and injected into the patient along with their own blood after two weeks. The founder of the DR beauty company that carried out the treatment, Dr Stephen Chow Heung-wing, has admitted there was no evidence the treatment worked.
Hong Kong urged to clamp down on beauty salon medical therapies
Government urged to close loophole that allows clinics to market high-risk procedures without proper supervision from medical authorities
Emily Tsang and Lo Wei
Pressure is mounting on the government to close regulatory loopholes that allow beauty salons to provide risky medical therapies without the supervision of health authorities.
This comes after four women fell seriously ill last week following blood transfusion therapy.
"I do not rule out the possibility of the need for legislation, or an amendment to the current law, to pin down those high-risk medical therapies," health minister Dr Ko Wing-man said.
Ko said the government would follow up on the matter in a Legislative Council committee meeting after liaising with various departments.
Three of the women, aged 46, 56 and 60, remain in critical condition. Each paid HK$50,000 for a "health therapy" at a DR beauty centre in Causeway Bay that involved a blood transfusion used in treating cancer.
The fourth woman, 59 - elder sister of the DR centre's founder, Dr Stephen Chow Heung-wing - remains in a stable condition. They all suffered septic shock.
The 46-year-old victim, who is in Ruttonjee Hospital in Wan Chai, also has also picked up a rare and deadly superbug. Test results for the Mycobacterium abscessus bacterium are pending on the other women.
Ko said the blood transfusion therapy should be classified as a medical procedure, and the doctor who performed it could not escape responsibility.
But while the doctor is likely to face charges of professional misconduct, the beauty salon may avoid punishment. Since it is not a medical clinic or private hospital, there is no authority to monitor the quality of service.
Inquiries by the Post yesterday found that other beauty salons offer similar therapies.
Doctor's Concept offers a "platelet-rich plasma therapy", which involves drawing blood from a client and injecting the blood plasma back into her face. Workers said the HK$3,800 treatment was safe and was performed by doctors and nurses.
Staff at Perfect Shape said it had stopped providing a similar therapy advertised on its website.
The treatment at the centre of the DR salon incidents is a plasma therapy known as CIK, or "cytokine-induced killer cells". It involves customers having blood drawn, which is then processed to harvest the CIK found in white blood cells, which is then injected back into the client.
Dr Walter King Wing-keung, president of the Hong Kong Association of Cosmetic Surgery, said other common treatments - such as Botox facelifts, and laser or ultrasound skin therapy - were all invasive and should be performed by specialist doctors and in clinics or hospitals.
"Many beauty salons are actually medical clinics in disguise because they have recruited many doctors. The government should ... regulate them," he said.
Dr Leung Ka-lau, the lawmaker for the medical sector, said the previous adminstration had turned a blind eye towards the unscruplous practices in the beauty industry, which finally led to the recent incidents.
He will present a private member's bill in the Legco targeting beauty salons.