Watchdogs have today announced a clamp down on beauty clinics promoting £100 hay fever injections.
The decision comes after MailOnline revealed dozens of practices were advertising Kenalog — which was withdrawn by the NHS a decade ago for being too risky.
The powerful drug suppresses the immune system, dampening the allergic reaction hay fever sufferers experience. Its effects can last months.
But it was phased out of routine use a decade ago after the safety watchdog decided the risks outweighed the benefits.
While Britons can still legally get Kenalog privately, clinics are banned from promoting prescription-only medications under advertising rules.
After a string of rule breaches , officials are now taking targeted action to try and stop it from happening.
The crackdown reminds clinics that they must remove all references to Kenalog in adverts, including terms that allude to it like ‘hay fever injection’ and ‘hay fever jab’.
Syringe emojis, patient testimonials and memes deemed to be promoting the jabs will also be in the advertising watchdog’s sights.
The Met Office is predicting medium levels across every area of England and Wales today
Tomorrow will bring some relief to hay fever suffers in the North West of England where pollen levels will drop to low
Pollen levels will remain at medium for England and Wales for the entirety of the weekend
While hay fever sufferers in England and Wales will be dealing with medium pollen levels those in Scotland and Norther Ireland will be enjoying low levels
WHAT IS KENALOG AND WHY WAS IT PULLED FROM NHS?
What is Kenalog?
Kenalog is a steroid injection used to treat hay fever.
The jab, usually administered to the buttocks, contains triamcinolone — a corticosteroid hormone.
Rather than curing hay fever, it is a blunt tool that works by suppressing the body’s immune response, so that symptoms are alleviated.
One injection may be enough for hay fever sufferers to get through the year but others may need a booster dose two weeks after the first.
As well as hay fever, the drug is used to treat arthritis, gout and skin diseases.
Why did the NHS stop offering Kenalog?
The jabs were routinely given to severe hay fever sufferers until around a decade ago.
But guidelines found their side effect risk was too high, compared to the benefits of the jab.
It was found to leave people vulnerable to other infections like chicken pox, shingles or the flu, and cause serious side effects like irregular heartbeats, depression and high blood pressure.
The scheme, run by the UK’s Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), will use internet monitoring technology to remove ads that violate these rules from August 29.
CAP director Shahriar Coupal said regulators were particularly concerned about the rise in clinics promoting Kenalog injections on social media and were acting.
‘Through our use of technology and data science, we will proactively monitor and take enforcement action against any advertiser that is unable to stick to the rules so there is a level playing field for businesses and consumers are protected,’ he said.
The MHRA’s head of advertising, Claire Tilstone, urged private clinics to review their advertisements now to avoid potential penalties.
‘Social media offers a powerful advertising tool for clinics but they must remain aware of the rules that surround it for medicines,’ she said.
‘Clinics should now urgently review their websites and social media before the August 29 deadline to ensure that they are not advertising the prescription-only medicine Kenalog, to avoid further enforcement action.’
Those found to be violating UK advertising rules could face action from Trading Standards, who can push for criminal prosecution for those involved, which can result in hefty fines or even imprisonment.
Kenalog injections were withdrawn by the NHS as a hay fever treatment because they left recipients vulnerable to infections like chickenpox, shingles or the flu.
The drug, triamcinolone acetonide, was also linked to causing irregular heartbeats, depression and high blood pressure.
But clinics advertising hay fever shots don’t always mention any of the potential risks in their advertisements.
Some even suggested budget cuts are the reason the NHS withdrew the injections, rather than the risks.
Several clinics have already been told to take down Kenalog ads by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), the UK body that enforces CAP advertising guidelines.
Kenalog injections for hay fever suppresses the immune system, dampening the allergic reaction sufferers experience however it is no longer routinely offered by the NHS due to increased risk of infection from viruses due to the body’s defences being weakened
One clinic advertising the jabs earlier this year on Instagram was Sassy Cosmetics Essex. The post claimed the NHS stopped offering Kenalog due to ‘budget cuts’ and that delivering the injections was taking too much of GP’s time
Another Instagram post uploaded this year by Sassy Cosmetics urged its 6,500 followers ‘don’t let hay fever get you down, book your six months relief’
Yesterday, Elite Aesthetic Clinic, a beauty and wellness business in Northern Ireland, was told to take down three ads published Facebook and Instagram in March and April this year.
One ad read: ‘If you’re plagued with severe sniffles, sneezing, watery eyes and an itchy throat as soon as warmer weather arrives – and medicines and nasal sprays don’t give you any reprieve – the hay fever injection could be the solution you’re looking for.’
Accepting the ASA ruling, Elite Aesthetic Clinic said they did not initially believe the ad would violate the rules as it did not reference Kenalog directly and have now agreed to take them down.
Four private clinics, Sarean Aesthetics in Bedfordshire, Skincodes Aesthetics in Milton Keynes, The Skin Clinic Faversham in Kent and Lucy Isabella Beauty & Aesthetics were sanctioned earlier this year over similar ads.
Ads for hay fever infections are prolific on social media sites like Instagram, with dozens of clinics from across the UK offering them for as little as £35.
Allery charities urged hay fever suffers to be cautious about getting the Kenalog injections earlier this year.
Allergy UK instead advised people suffering from hay fever symptoms to first try ‘very effective’ antihistamines before considering other treatments.