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Monday, 13 December, 1999, 19:54 GMT
Skin treatment `rip-off'

bruce george MP Bruce George says patients need education

Patients at private skin clinics are being `ripped-off', claims a parliamentary pressure group.

Some people with conditions like psoriasis and acne are being charged as much as 950 for skin cream worth 2.50, says the All Party Parliamentary Group on Skin.

The MPs said in a report that patients were being conned by disreputable clinics and urged the government to start a public inquiry, reports the BBC's consumer affairs reporter Karen Bowerman.

They also question the effectiveness of some creams and remedies, including those that contain steroids which can lead to severe additional problems.

It is vital that health professionals manage patients' expectations sympathetically and educate people with skin conditions
Bruce George MP
The report from the group highlights the case of a woman who spent 1,000 on a cure for baldness only to be told a year later that she had been misdiagnosed. She then spent a further 1,000 after she was told that if she did not continue with the treatment she would lose all her hair by the time she was 30.

In another case, a girl with severe acne was sold two pots of cream for 900. when it was analysed, the ointment did not contain any active ingredient at all.

Another patient spent 950 on a cream which was found to contain soft paraffin worth 1 and steroids worth about 1.50.

Difficult to treat

Bruce George MP, chairman of the group, said: "Skin disease is difficult to treat and medication often takes time to work, driving disillusioned patients to look for alternative solutions.

"It is vital that health professionals manage patients' expectations sympathetically and educate people with skin conditions about the often chronic nature of their disease, to avoid the emotional, financial and sometimes physical damage which fraudulent treatments and practitioners can cause."

The group wants a public education programme to be introduced warning people of the potential dangers of some alternative medicines.

People considering non-orthodox treatments are advised to check the qualifications of practitioners, get a contact number for a registered body with a code of practice and consult with GPs or hospital consultants.

And patients are warned against claims of "cures" or quick relief from conditions, particularly if they feel uncomfortable with the practitioner.

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See also:
26 Aug 99 |  Health
Britons turning to alternative cures
26 Feb 99 |  Health
Herbal remedies contain steroids
23 Aug 99 |  Health
What is alternative medicine?

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