in the back
Dope for heroes
Charity, Issue 1552
aamer-khan.jpg
Dr Aamer Khan runs both the charity and the Harley Street Skin Clinic
Back on Track, a charity for service veterans, is being investigated by the Charity Commission after complaints that founder Dr Aamer Khan was using it to promote unproven products and treatments without declaring a financial interest.

Dr Khan and his wife, Lesley Reynolds, set up the charity in 2016 to provide medical and psychological treatment to injured former members of the armed forces. All very laudable and, as some grateful ex-soldiers and airmen testify on its website, of real mental and physical benefit. One problem, however, is that the line between the charity's work and the interests of the Harley Street Skin Clinic, favoured by celebs and run by Dr Khan and Reynolds, has become blurred.

Back on Track is based at the clinic and at least three of its six trustees are connected to it, including Reynolds herself, secretary Paula Hall and Melanie Faldo, the clinic's PR consultant. Two months ago, they were obliged to remove all charity tweets, blogs and links relating to MariPharm, an over-the-counter cannabis derived oil (CBD).

Research on safety and efficacy is limited
The move followed complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority from researcher and campaigner Dr Alex May. He had discovered that Dr Khan, who was "helping” vulnerable veterans with CBD, had failed to declare that he was MariPharm's paid "chief cosmetic adviser”. The Food Standards Agency, which regulates CBD, says research on safety and efficacy is limited and advises consumers "to think carefully” before taking it.

It warns against use for "people in vulnerable groups”, unless it is under medical direction. Most troubling, perhaps, is that Dr Khan, who has interim restrictions on his practice imposed by the General Medical Council relating to cosmetic procedures, is now venturing into what one leading expert described as "dangerous quackery”. The Harley Street Skin Clinic offers largely unproven stem-cell treatments for everything from cancer, Parkinson's disease and strokes to erectile dysfunction and hair loss.

The Back on Track website promotes stem-cell treatment for tendon damage. "Your own blood is the hero,” it says, describing a treatment which involves taking a sample of blood, extracting from it what is claimed to be a "high concentration of platelets (which is naturally rich in stem, and other regenerative cells)” and then injecting it back into the affected area.

No evidence whatsoever that they would have any rejuvenating effects
Professor Patricia Murray, an expert in stem-cell biology at Liverpool University, told the Eye: "This is nonsense. Platelets would not be rich in stem or other regenerative cells. The likelihood is that there would not be a single stem cell present. Even if there were, there is no evidence whatsoever that they would have any rejuvenating effects.”

Kathleen Costello, chair of the trustees, told the Eye she could not comment on any commercial relationship between Dr Khan and MariPharm. The charity had acted "responsibly in line with medical opinions we have sought”, and products on the website were "placed in good faith” and subject to periodic review. (By spooky coincidence, some brand names were removed from the website after the Eye's call.)

Asked whether his qualifications as a GP and skin specialist equipped him to treat patients with PTSD, Dr Khan said he consulted other experts. He said patients were always informed of the limitations of stem-cell treatment and "no treatment is undertaken until the patient has been reviewed by a consultant (who is a specialist in the relevant field) and approval has been given by the specialist”.

Dr Khan said he only had a commercial relationship with MariPharm for eight months in 2019. The restrictions on his practice were being dealt with by his lawyers, "but suffice to say they are not related to CBD oil/MariPharm or BOT [Back on Track]”.

More top stories in the latest issue:

TAKING COVER
Documents have come to light showing just how long the building safety disaster has been brewing – and how early doubts about cladding and fire safety were deliberately played down.

BLOCK CHAIN
A former member of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel blows the whistle on an attempt by Dame Cressida Dick to obstruct the probe into corruption and incompetence surrounding the private investigator’s murder.

SUPERMARKET SWEEP
US private-equity group Fortress bids to take over Morrisons, but its tax record is not encouraging.

BESTED AGAIN
A park home resident faces eviction because, unknown to her when she bought the property, it was erected without planning permission.

DIRTY TRICK
Another park home operator continues the torment of a pensioner by dumping an enormous mound of earth outside his home.

INACTION FIGURES
The Church of England announces a season for action on safeguarding, but reviews of abuse cases face long delays.

SHEDDING THE POUNDS
Questions for a school over public funds spent on a new pavilion and a sports field fence.

To read all these stories in full, please buy issue 1552 of Private Eye - you can subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale: 4th August 2021
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