The Food and Drug Administration recently declared that there are serious risks with the use of a popular intravenous skin whitener-glutathione, which has been in use in the Philipines.  This is a medication only used out of the states for this cosmetic use.  Glutathione comes from the liver and is an antioxidant.  There is controversy as to whether or not it provides skin-whitening effects.  The mechanism is through inactivation of the enzyme tyrosinase which is required in melanin production.  The lighter pigment pheomelanin is produced instead.  Utilization via the oral route is minimally effective.

There has been a large increase in the intravenous use of this drug, and generally this is provided at high doses intravenously simply to provide skin-whitening.  This use is unapproved by the FDA and can result in significant deleterious health effects.  Problems include kidney damage and failure, thyroid dysfunction, skin necrosis, and Stevens-Johnson syndrome.

The take home point is to really think twice about going abroad to have cosmetic procedures performed, and to stay away from unproven and non-FDA approved treatments.