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Some Call For More Oversight Of 'Medical Spas'

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Laser treatments for everything from hair removal to removing spots on the skin are commonplace at medical spas. The North Carolina Medical Board "suggests" that a doctor oversee the procedure, but it does not require it.

"You've got people practicing medicine without a license. I really believe that," said facial plastic surgeon Dr. Adam Stein.

Stein wrote a letter to the board urging them to make doctors a mandatory part of the procedures.

"People take a very cavalier attitude when they say, 'Well, as long as the doctor is somewhere around, these are very simple procedures,'" he said. "They are simple procedures. They still are very dangerous procedures."

N.C. State student Shiri Berg, 22, died earlier in January after overdosing on a numbing cream called Lidocaine. Her lawyer said she got the cream without a prescription from Premier Body where she was preparing to have laser hair removal done.

Pharmacists say what a lot of people do not realize about creams like Lidocaine is that they do not just stay on the surface of the skin. They can seep into your bloodstream. Pharmacist Mike James said a Lidocaine compound is only intended to be used by medical staff in the office.

"This is not an item that is intended to be given to the general public outside the office use," she said.

The North Carolina Medical Board is looking at the issue of "medical spas" and could change the way they are regulated.

"The fundamental question is whether what's going on is the practice of medicine," said Thom Mansfield, attorney for the North Carolina Medical Board. "If it is the practice of medicine, then it must be done by a physician, a licensee of this board."

Stein said nothing can make the procedures 100 percent safe, but a doctor can make them safer.

Berg's family hired an attorney who is investigating the woman's death. Premier Body sent out a letter asking patients to stop using the lidocaine compound. The pharmacy who made the cream, Triangle Compounding in Cary, is cooperating with the Food and Drug Administration, the Medical Board and the Pharmacy Board on its investigation of the incident.


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