Watchdogs announced today that they will be cracking down on beauty clinics promoting £100 hay fever injections.
The decision comes after MailOnline revealed that dozens of practices were advertising Kenalog – which was withdrawn by the NHS a decade ago because it was too risky.
The powerful drug suppresses the immune system and dampens the allergic reaction that hay fever patients experience. Its effects can last for months.
But routine use was phased out a decade ago after the safety watchdog decided the risks outweighed the benefits.
While Brits can still legally obtain Kenalog, clinics are prohibited from promoting prescription-only drugs under the advertising rules.
After a series of rule violations, officials are now taking targeted action to try and prevent this.
The crackdown reminds clinics to remove all references to Kenalog in advertisements, including terms referring to it like “hay fever injection” and “hay fever shot.”
Syringe emojis, patient testimonials and memes supposed to promote the jabs will also be in the ad watchdog’s crosshairs.
The Met Office is forecasting average levels in every area of England and Wales today
Tomorrow will bring some relief to hay fever sufferers in the North West of England where pollen levels will drop to low levels
Pollen levels remain average for England and Wales throughout the weekend
While hay fever sufferers in England and Wales will experience medium pollen levels, those in Scotland and Northern Ireland will enjoy low levels
WHAT IS KENALOG AND WHY WAS IT WITHDRAWN FROM NHS?
What is Kenalog?
Kenalog is a steroid injection used to treat hay fever.
The injection, 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 relieved.
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.
In addition to hay fever, the drug is used to treat arthritis, gout and skin diseases.
Why has the NHS stopped offering Kenalog?
The shots were routinely given to severe hay fever patients until about ten years ago.
But guidelines found that their risk of side effects was too high, compared to the benefits of the jab.
It was found to leave people vulnerable to other infections such as chickenpox, shingles or the flu, and caused serious side effects such as irregular heartbeat, depression and high blood pressure.
The scheme, implemented by the UK’s Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), will use internet monitoring technology from August 29 to remove ads that violate these rules.
CAP director Shahriar Coupal said regulators were particularly concerned about the proliferation of clinics promoting Kenalog injections on social media and were taking action.
“Through our use of technology and data science, we will proactively monitor and take enforcement action against any advertiser who fails to abide by the rules, ensuring a level playing field for businesses and consumers to be protected,” he said.
MHRA’s head of advertising, Claire Tilstone, urged private clinics to review their ads now to avoid potential fines.
“Social media is a powerful advertising tool for clinics, but they need to stay abreast of the rules surrounding it for medicines,” she said.
Clinics now urgently need to review their websites and social media before the August 29 deadline to ensure they are not advertising the prescription drug Kenalog, in order to avoid further enforcement action.
Those found to be violating UK advertising rules could face trade standards measures, which could push for criminal charges against those involved, resulting in hefty fines or even jail time.
Kenalog injections were withdrawn by the NHS as a hay fever treatment because they made recipients vulnerable to infections such as chickenpox, shingles or the flu.
The drug, triamcinolone acetonide, has also been linked to causing irregular heartbeat, depression and high blood pressure.
But clinics that promote hay fever shots don’t always list the potential risks in their ads.
Some even suggested that budget cuts are the reason the NHS has withdrawn the injections, rather than the risks.
Several clinics have already been ordered to remove Kenalog ads by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), the UK body that enforces CAP advertising guidelines.
Kenalog injections for hay fever suppress the immune system and dampen the allergic reaction patients experience, but it is no longer routinely offered by the NHS due to an increased risk of infection from viruses as the body’s defenses are weakened
One clinic that advertised the jabs on Instagram earlier this year was Sassy Cosmetics Essex. The post claimed the NHS stopped offering Kenalog due to ‘austerity budgets’ and that giving the injections was taking too much GP’s time
Another Instagram post uploaded by Sassy Cosmetics this year urged his 6,500 followers to ‘don’t let hay fever get you down, book you six months of relief’
Yesterday, Elite Aesthetic Clinic, a beauty and wellness company based in Northern Ireland, was told to remove three ads that had been published on Facebook and Instagram in March and April this year.
One ad read: ‘If you’re experiencing heavy snorting, sneezing, watery eyes and an itchy throat as soon as the weather gets warmer – and medicines and nasal sprays won’t help you – the hay fever shot could be the solution you’re looking for.’
Elite Aesthetic Clinic accepted the ASA ruling, saying they initially did not believe the ad would break the rules because it did not reference Kenalog directly, and they have now agreed to its removal.
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 advertisements.
Advertisements for hay fever infections are prolific on social media sites such as Instagram, with dozens of clinics from across the UK offering them for just £35.
Allery charities urged Hayfever to be cautious about getting the Kenalog shots earlier this year.
Allergy UK instead advised people with hay fever symptoms to try ‘highly effective’ antihistamines before considering other treatments.