Published: March 1999

Death Associated with a Face Peeling Product Containing Phenol

Prescriber Update 18: 46-47
March 1999

Medsafe Editorial Team

Medsafe has been made aware of a death following a serious cardiac adverse reaction believed to be attributable to the use of a phenol face peeling solution. The product concerned is called 'Exoderm Lift' (also known as 'Exoderm') and has been supplied to New Zealand practitioners from an Israeli source. Practitioners are advised of the possible toxic effects of phenol and the possibility that topical application may result in significant systemic absorption.

Phenol-containing face peeling solutions are regarded as medicines in New Zealand. The safety and efficacy profile of these products has not been assessed in New Zealand and the Minister has not given consent to the distribution of Exoderm or any other phenol-containing face peeling solutions.

In view of the concerns about the safety of these products, Medsafe recommends that practitioners should:

not use phenol-containing face peeling products;
check with suppliers about the status (with respect to the medicines legislation) of any medicinal or cosmetic product you wish to use;
check with legal advisors about the issue of personal liability if you choose to treat a patient with a chemical face peeling product for which the Minister has not given consent; and
be aware that you are required by the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights (July 1996) to fully inform patients of the risks and benefits of any proposed treatment.

While it is possible, within the provisions of sections 25 and 29 of the Medicines Act 1981, for medical practitioners to treat patients with medicines for which Ministerial consent to distribution has not been given, patients must be fully informed of the risks and benefits of using such a medicine. The medical practitioner may carry some liability should an adverse reaction occur. The obligations under these sections of the legislation are outlined in 'Unapproved Use of Medicines'. Practitioners should be aware of the obligations to inform consumers and report any adverse reactions that occur with face peeling products to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring in Dunedin.