23.06.2024

Urgent warning over ‘risky’ hay fever jabs sold for just £40 as UK is battered by ‘pollen bomb’

Private clinics are illegally promoting hay fever jabs, cashing in on fears the UK will be hit by a ‘pollen bomb‘ in the coming days. MailOnline found practices advertising Kenalog steroid injections on Instagram for between £45 and £75.

While Brits can legally get Kenalog privately, clinics are banned from promoting any prescription-only medications under UK advertising rules.

The powerful drug suppresses the immune system, dampening the allergic reaction hay fever sufferers experience. Its effects can last months.

But the jab was phased out of NHS use around a decade ago after safety watchdogs decided its risks outweighed the benefits.

The adverts come amid forecasts of high pollen levels across Britain this week, with the south of England, Wales and Northern Ireland hit hardest. The Met Office predicts ‘high’ pollen levels across almost every area of England and Wales today

The adverts come amid forecasts of high pollen levels across Britain this week, with the south of England, Wales and Northern Ireland hit hardest. The Met Office predicts 'high' pollen levels across almost every area of England and Wales today

The powerful drug works by suppressing the immune system and dampening the allergic reaction hay fever sufferers experience. Its effects can last months. But the steroid — anti-inflammatory medication — also comes with other side effects including stomach and abdominal pain, shortness of breath and bone pain

The powerful drug works by suppressing the immune system and dampening the allergic reaction hay fever sufferers experience. Its effects can last months. But the steroid - anti-inflammatory medication - also comes with other side effects including stomach and abdominal pain, shortness of breath and bone pain

It can trigger side effects such as stomach and abdominal pain, shortness of breath and bone pain.

Kenalog can also leave people vulnerable to other infections, including chickenpox, shingles or the flu. It can also potentially cause irregular heartbeats, depression and high blood pressure.

It comes as pollen levels are set to soar across Britain this week, with the south of England, Wales and Northern Ireland hit hardest.

The Met Office predicts ‘high’ pollen levels across almost every area of England and Wales today.

High pressure is set to welcome warm sunshine for many later this week, with temperatures forecast to reach 23C (73.4) in London on Friday.

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.

Cardiff and Exeter will see temperatures spike at 24C (75.2F), with the mercury hitting 21C (69.8F) in Manchester.

The millions of Brits who suffer from bad hay fever, as well as asthma and other lung issues, are urged to take precautions, including taking regular medication, always carrying their inhaler and call their GP or 111 if their symptoms get worse.

MailOnline found several clinics — most of which specialised in cosmetic treatments — promoting Kenalog.

Optimized Body Mind in Luton advertised its injection for a ‘reasonable cost of £75’.

It adds: ‘Say goodbye to hay fever symptoms for months with a Kenalog injection.’

Another, @beglam_beauty_aesthetics in Derby, promoted the jab for £60 and claimed it is ‘super convenient, resulting in amazing results. Imagine not having to take a tablet every day’.

It even acknowledged the injections are ‘no longer available on our NHS’, adding ‘it’s even a battle to now obtain tablets’.

Meanwhile Bella Luxe London in King’s Cross told its 1,000 plus Instagram followers that the jab ‘completely relieves the symptoms for the entire season’ for ‘many people’.

A fourth, @samantha.louise.salon in the Wirral, used a syringe emoji to promote the drug.

It asked its more than 1,700 Instagram followers to message its nurse directly for a consultation and Kenalog injection costing £45.

Claire Tilstone, head of advertising at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) — which polices the safety of drugs in the UK — told MailOnline: ‘The advertising of prescription-only medicines in the UK is banned under UK advertising law.

‘Clinics should urgently review their websites and social media to ensure that they are not advertising the prescription-only medicine Kenalog to avoid further enforcement action.’

She added: ‘We would urge anyone who sees a clinic advertising Kenalog to report it either to the MHRA or the Advertising Standards Authority, and always to consult a qualified healthcare professional to discuss options for hay fever treatment.’

High pressure is set to welcome warm sunshine for many later this week, with temperatures forecast to reach 23C in London on Friday. Cardiff and Exeter will see temperatures soar to 24C, with the mercury hitting 21C in Manchester. But the warm weather could spell misery for hay fever sufferers, with the millions with bad hay fever, as well as asthma and other lung issues, being urged to take precautions

Allergy UK also told MailOnline it does ‘not recommend the use of these injections in the treatment of hay fever’.

The charity added: ‘Kenalog injections deliver a large dose of corticosteroid into the body to reduce inflammation, the injection is not targeted to one particular area.

‘Unlike for example corticosteroid asthma inhalers where the medicine is a small, measured dose, delivered directly to the lungs and so there is minimal risk of side effects to the rest of the body.

‘Therefore, when injected, Kenalog affects every body system including your immune system making you more susceptible to serious side effects and infection.’

Last summer, UK health chiefs issued a joint enforcement notice about the advertising of Kenalog injections on social media, which was welcomed by health bodies and charities including Allergy UK.

The MHRA alongside the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) warned any ads found to include text or images promoting the jabs would be banned.

Even including a syringe emoji would be a breach of the law.

At the time, Shahriar Coupal, the director of CAP, said: ‘Our enforcement notice, published jointly with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, makes it abundantly clear that Kenalog, as a prescription-only-medicine, should not be directly or indirectly advertised to the public.’

He added: ‘Our rules apply across media, but we are particularly concerned about the prevalence of Kenalog injection advertising on social media.’

MailOnline found several clinics - most of which specialised in cosmetic treatments - promoting Kenalog. Optimized Body Mind in Luton advertised its injection for a 'reasonable cost of £75'. It adds: 'Say goodbye to hay fever symptoms for months with a Kenalog injection

MailOnline found several clinics — most of which specialised in cosmetic treatments — promoting Kenalog. Optimized Body Mind in Luton advertised its injection for a ‘reasonable cost of £75’. It adds: ‘Say goodbye to hay fever symptoms for months with a Kenalog injection

Another, @beglam_beauty_aesthetics, in Derby promoting the jab for £60, claims the jabs are 'super convenient, resulting in amazing results. Imagine not having to take a tablet every day'. It even acknowledges the injections are 'no longer available on our NHS', adding 'it's even a battle to now obtain tablets'

Another, @beglam_beauty_aesthetics, in Derby promoting the jab for £60, claims the jabs are ‘super convenient, resulting in amazing results. Imagine not having to take a tablet every day’. It even acknowledges the injections are ‘no longer available on our NHS’, adding ‘it’s even a battle to now obtain tablets’

Bella Luxe London in King's Cross told its 1,000+ Instagram followers that the jab 'completely relieves the symptoms for the entire season' for 'many people'

Bella Luxe London in King’s Cross told its 1,000+ Instagram followers that the jab ‘completely relieves the symptoms for the entire season’ for ‘many people’

A fourth, @samantha.louise.salon in the Wirral, used a syringe emoji to promote the drug. It asked its 1,700+ Instagram followers to message its nurse directly for a consultation and Kenalog injection costing £45

A fourth, @samantha.louise.salon in the Wirral, used a syringe emoji to promote the drug. It asked its 1,700+ Instagram followers to message its nurse directly for a consultation and Kenalog injection costing £45

An ASA spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘Our rules make it abundantly clear that Kenalog, as a prescription-only-medicine, should not be directly or indirectly advertised to the public.

‘Our Enforcement Notice is not a silver bullet and is just the first part of our enforcement activity in this area. We acknowledge that problem ads are still appearing. That’s why we’re conducting follow-up monitoring and taking further action.

‘Our Compliance team are continuing to monitor advertisers using our monitoring technology to swiftly remove non-compliant ads and help ensure a level-playing-field. Posts on Instagram and Facebook that are found to be advertising Kenalog will be removed.

‘We cannot comment on the specific ads you have cited without going through our processes, i.e. assessing complaints and establishing whether our rules have been broken and if there are grounds for action. However, we have passed these on so they can be assessed by our compliance team.

‘Any advertisers that are unwilling or unable to stick to the rules will face targeted enforcement action including referral to the MHRA.’

Syringe emojis, patient testimonials and memes deemed to be promoting the jabs all breach the rules.

Those found to be in violation could face action from Trading Standards. It can push for criminal prosecution for those involved, which can result in hefty fines or even imprisonment.

Kenalog is the brand name for triamcinolone acetonide and is a steroid injection that is licensed as a medicine for a number of conditions, though not for the treatment of hay fever.

Unlike a cold, which normally goes away within a week, hay fever can last for weeks or months.

Symptoms begin when immune cells mistakenly identify pollen proteins as a threat and make antibodies that trigger chemicals called histamines.

These make the blood vessels dilate, prompting the release of fluid from capillaries, triggering a runny nose, sneezing and weeping eyes.

While not life-threatening itself, tens of thousands of hay fever sufferers also have asthma, which can flare-up during pollen bombs. Asthma attacks can be fatal.

But the NHS says there are things people can do to ease their symptoms when the pollen count is high this weekend.

They include putting Vaseline around your nostrils to trap pollen, wearing wrap-around sunglasses to stop pollen getting in the eyes and showering and changing clothes after being outside to wash pollen off.

WHAT IS HAY FEVER?

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen, a fine powder which comes from plants. There is more pollen in the air in the spring and summer when plants are flowering.

The reaction usually happens when pollen comes into contact with someone’s eyes, nose, mouth or throat.

Hay fever symptoms include coughing and sneezing; a runny or blocked nose; itchy, red or watery eyes; itching throat, nose, mouth or ears; headaches and tiredness.

People suffering from the allergy can put Vaseline around their nose to trap the pollen, wear wraparound sunglasses to keep pollen out of their eyes, wash clothes regularly and vacuum and dust indoors.

Avoiding grass, cut flowers and smoke can help reduce symptoms, as can drying clothes indoors where pollen is less likely to stick to them.

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