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Medical esthetician Amara Nizar is photographed in a treatment room before the grand opening of the new Beauty Clinic by Shoppers Drug Mart in Oakville, Ont., on Dec. 18, 2018.Tijana Martin/Globe and Mail

Shoppers Drug Mart is taking a shot at Botox.

The country’s largest drugstore retailer is set to open two beauty clinics offering cosmetic treatments such as Botox wrinkle reduction, skin filler injections and laser treatments as its parent company Loblaw Cos. Ltd. extends it push into the growing health and wellness industry.

Shoppers will open its first test clinic on Saturday in the Shops on Dundas mall in Oakville, Ont., with a second slated for Toronto’s Shops at Don Mills early next year. Nurse practitioners, who are trained to diagnose and treat illnesses and prescribe medications, will administer the cosmetic treatments. They include skin volume restoration and lip enhancement fillers for $550 a syringe; skin re-surfacing for $150; and laser skin rejuvenation for $800.

It’s a bid by Shoppers – the top destination for purchasing beauty and skincare products – to cash in on the rising popularity of cosmetic dermatology treatments in an increasingly crowded beauty field.

“With our expertise in both the health and beauty business, offering cosmetic treatments feels like a natural step for us,” said Rachel Huckle, senior vice-president at Shoppers.

However, Shoppers may run into the same resistance that existing beauty clinics face from doctors. A number of medical groups say that procedures such as cosmetic injections, dermal fillers, microdermabrasion and laser wrinkle reductions should be done under the supervision of a doctor – and not just by nurse practitioners – because of the risks of harmful effects and complications.

“It’s actually a little frightening when retailers start to get into medical treatments,” said Richard Bendor-Samuel, a plastic surgeon in Halifax and president of the Canadian Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. It has called on provinces to introduce more stringent regulations governing cosmetic procedures.

The clinic is a bid by Shoppers to cash in on the rising popularity of cosmetic dermatology treatments in an increasingly crowded beauty field.Tijana Martin/Globe and Mail

The pilot comes as Shoppers faces burgeoning pressures in the health and beauty segments from online sellers and cosmetics giant Sephora, owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA of Paris. Drugstores also feel a pinch from new generic drug rules, which are forcing the retailers to find new ways to boost profits. Parent Loblaw is betting more on the growing health and wellness industry, luring customers back with its PC Optimum rewards program. The Shoppers beauty clinics may allow PC Optimum members to redeem rewards points for some cosmetic treatments.

Meanwhile, the cosmetic dermatology market in Canada is flourishing, with the business forecast to almost double in the next five years, according to Shoppers’ research. South of the border, the number of some skin resurfacing treatments skyrocketed as much as 99.5 per cent in 2017 from a year earlier, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery found. Botox treatments were the leading non-surgical procedure last year, it said. The number of injectable procedures such as Botox saw a “massive” 40.6-per-cent jump over the past five years, it reported.

Shoppers' Ms. Huckle said skilled and experienced nurse practitioners will oversee the clinics' procedures. Nurse practitioners are nurses with additional education and know-how in diagnosing and treating illnesses, prescribing medications and performing medical procedures.

The clinics will not have a doctor operating within them, but Shoppers is continually consulting with doctors to develop its operating procedures and train employees, Ms. Huckle said. The clinics will provide regulated services by nurse practitioners who have the training and legal authority to prescribe and administer the procedures in Ontario, she said.

Still, Dr. Bendor-Samuel said his and other medical groups believe nurse practitioners should work in a collaborative health care setting under the supervision of a doctor.

“Once you start putting in filler and injecting things into people, I think that’s risky for everybody involved,” added Neil Shear, president of the Canadian Dermatology Association and a dermatologist at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto.

The association, the Canadian Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and three other medical groups have voiced their concerns about cosmetic treatments being carried out without medical supervision and have called on provincial governments to more strictly regulate the area.

In August, Superdrug Stores PLC, a British-based health and beauty chain, raised the ire of doctors when it introduced its first Botox and filler treatments – administered by nurses – at a Superdrug outlet in central London. A Superdrug spokeswoman said on Tuesday that it plans to expand the initiative across Britain.

Still, Mary O’Brien, vice-president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, said it has “numerous serious concerns about retailers offering cosmetic procedures.” Those concerns include the potential for profit being placed before patient care; a lack of regulation and governance; and “the fact it makes these treatments easier for those underage to access,” Dr. O’Brien said. The association is concerned about the “inherent risk” of complications without medical staff at the facility, she said.

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