IV skin whitener could be deadly

May 18, 2011

The Food and Drug Administration of the Philippines has issued an advisory that warns of the potentially serious risks of using the popular intravenous skin whitener glutathione (Glutathione IV), GMA News Online reports.

Manila, Philippines - The Food and Drug Administration of the Philippines has issued an advisory that warns of the potentially serious risks of using the popular intravenous skin whitener glutathione (Glutathione IV), GMA News Online reports.

 Citing reports received by the agency, Director Suzette Lazo, M.D., is quoted in the advisory as saying, “The alarming increase in the unapproved use of glutathione administered intravenously as a skin-whitening agent at very high doses is unsafe and may result in serious consequences to the health of users.”

According to Dr. Lazo’s statement, adverse reactions include the deadly Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis; thyroid function derangement; suspected kidney dysfunction, potentially resulting in kidney failure; and severe abdominal pain in a patient receiving twice-weekly glutathione administered intravenously.

Glutathione is a liver-generated compound that plays a role in antioxidant defense, metabolism and regulation. It may induce a skin-whitening effect by inactivating the enzyme tyrosinase, which is needed in melanin production and converts the pigment to the lighter pheomelanin. Dr. Lazo noted that this claim has been disputed.

“When administered orally, (glutathione) is hydrolyzed by the gastric juices and further undergoes degradation by the liver enzyme, and the resultant bioavailability is low,” she said. “Intravenous administration delivers very high doses directly into the systemic circulation and may overload the renal circulation.”