The International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ISHRS) is launching a new public awareness campaign to help patients recognize “black market pirate” hair restoration clinics and misleading advertising claims.
Social media engagement will be the cornerstone of the new physician-led campaign, with physicians and patients sharing stories of this growing problem.
The ISHRS has also established detailed information on its website under the header “Beware of the Hair Transplant Black Market” to help patients find relevant information when considering a hair transplant, including how to evaluate a surgeon’s credentials and patient photos illustrating the dangers and problems that occur when clinics do not have the patients best interest.
“We hope patients will use the new ISHRS resources to educate themselves about the risks of undergoing a hair restoration procedure on the black market and to make sure they understand the local laws and regulations when considering a hair transplant in another country,” says ISHRS President Arthur Tykocinski, MD, in a news release. “Forewarned is forearmed could not be truer when it comes to avoiding being a victim of unscrupulous hair transplant clinics. This problem is also happening in every country, where greedy entrepreneurs and clinic owners choose a business turnkey model where a hair transplant practice emerges almost instantly and the patient is mainly assisted by unlicensed professionals and the physician, if present, has no experience or is minimally involved into the procedure at all.”
A Serious Crisis
A recent member survey gauging ISHRS members’ familiarity or experience treating patients who have suffered a botched hair restoration surgery found that 77.5 percent of survey respondents saw at least six or more cases per year, and that number is climbing drastically. Specific problems members reported encountering include scarring, unnatural hairlines, poor hair growth, wrong hair direction, depleted donor area in the scalp leaving a bald appearance, infections and inaccurate graft counts. Some patients think they are getting 4000-6000 grafts when in reality they may only get half.
When members were asked to rank on a scale of one to ten (10 being the worst) how big of a problem the issue of black market clinics or unlicensed personnel performing hair restoration surgery in other countries is, 63.27 percent of ISHRS members acknowledged the severity of the problem and responded with either an 8 (23.47 percent), 9 (13.27 percent) or 10 (26.53 percent).
“Many of the illegal clinics have sophisticated websites ranking high with Google paid ads to attract the consumer into a clinic that appears on the surface very professional, “ says Ricardo Mejia, MD, chair of the ISHRS Committee on Issues Pertaining to the Unlicensed Practice of Medicine, in a news release.
“The marketing tactics are deceptive as it appears like a team of professional doctors with excellent testimonials. However, the reality is your surgery may be done by someone with no medical training. Patients are the ones that suffer when they realize too late who did the surgery and end up with botched complications and scars and hairlines that are not normal and disfiguring.”