Equipment used in ozone therapy. The Health Ministry said those caught offering the banned treatment will be prosecuted and the equipment seized. PIC BY ROSELA ISMAIL

THE hunt for unscrupulous businesses offering the highly-risky ozone therapy begins tomorrow.

Errant business owners, who mostly offer the “treatment” from their beauty parlours, may not even realise that in the days preceding yesterday’s deadline for them to shut down, they had been receiving “customers” that they wished they had not entertained.

These walk-in customers were actually the Health Ministry’s enforcers who needed to document evidence that the operators were breaking the law, for a handsome profit at the expense of public health.

The directive followed a blanket ban on the commercial use of ozone therapy machines in the country, as announced by Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam on May 3.

Deputy director-general of Health (medical) Datuk Dr S. Jeyaindran told the New SundayTimes that ozone therapy was now considered an “illegal procedure” and those caught offering such treatments would be prosecuted.

“We have given them six months to voluntarily opt out from the market and effective July 1, ozone therapy is considered an illegal procedure in this country.

“Any medical practitioner who provides the procedure is breaching the Medical Device Act because they are using an unregistered medical machine.

“If they are non-medical practitioners, then they are breaking even more regulations because they cannot use needles or syringes, which they need to perform such treatments,” he said, adding that the Ministry’s Medical Device Authority (MDA) would also act based on public complaints.

The New Straits Times had, on Jan 1, begun championing for the unsanctioned treatment to be banned.

Ozone therapy has been gaining popularity among Malay-sians, who are unaware of the many risks associated with it, including death from air embolism.

Dr Jeyaindran said there was no evidence to support claims of the treatment’s effectiveness and that existing evidence showed otherwise.

“Those who strongly believe in the health benefits of ozone therapy can submit their evidence to us to be reviewed... We are open to it. But, in the meantime, until they find the evidence, they must stop their operations.”

The move to ban ozone therapy was made to ensure the safety of the public, he said.

In announcing the blanket ban, Dr Subramaniam gave the business owners until yesterday to close shop.

He said the ministry would not extend the deadline despite the mixed reaction from industry players.

MDA chief executive officer Zamane Abdul Rahman, who let the NST in on the intelligence work that had been carried out at premises operating ozone therapy machines commercially, said his team was collaborating with other health agencies to conduct integrated raids nationwide.

“Our surveillance will intensify and we will collaborate with other agencies such the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency and the Medical Practice Division to rein in errant operators.

“In the Klang Valley alone, we have identified at least 40 premises still operating.

“We will expand our operations to focus on other states,” he told the NST.

Premises found to be operating unregistered ozone machines, would have their instruments sealed and seized, Zamane said.

“Until today, none of the ozone therapy machines in our country are registered with MDA. So, from tomorrow onwards, if they are found to be using ozone machines, we will seize them,” he said.

Zamane said MDA would also clamp down on websites and social media accounts which promote ozone therapy in the country.

“We will seek the assistance of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to close sites and accounts which have been aggressively promoting ozone therapy in our country,” he said.