Health Policy & Advocacy
Basic InformationMore InformationLatest News
Could Profit Be a Factor in Kidney Transplant Decisions?Get Up-to-the-Minute Safety Alerts Sent Straight to Your InboxPurdue Pharma to Settle Opioid Crisis Lawsuits, May Pay Up to $12 BillionWould a Health Warning on Every Cigarette Help Smokers Quit?Docs Prescribe More Opioids at Certain Time of DayFDA Warns Juul About Illegal Marketing Claims and Pitch to YouthComing Soon: A 'Pot Breathalyzer'?More CT, MRI Scans Being Used, Despite Calls to Cut BackCancer Overtakes Heart Disease as #1 Killer of Middle-Aged in Wealthy NationsOxyContin Maker Purdue Offering Up to $12 Billion to Settle Opioid ClaimsThousands of Kidneys Thrown Away by U.S. Transplant CentersJudge Orders Johnson & Johnson to Pay $572 Million Over Opioid Drug CrisisEvery Sudden Infant Death Deserves a Closer Look: ReportYour Chocolate Pot 'Edible' Could Hold a Hidden DangerCBD Is the Rage, But More Science Needed on Safety, EffectivenessMany Parents Would Switch Doctors Over Vaccination Policy, Poll FindsPot Poisonings Among Kids, Teens Double After Medical Marijuana Law PassedNearly Half of U.S. Patients Keep Vital Secrets From Their DoctorsFDA Proposes Graphic Warning Labels on CigarettesMany Doctors Refusing Care of People Prescribed OpioidsAll U.S. Adults Should Be Screened for Illicit Drug Use, National Panel UrgesAmericans' Trust in Scientists Follows a Sharp Political DivideRaising Legal Smoking Age to 21 WorksPure CBD Won't Make You Fail a Drug Test, But…Health Tip: Donate Blood SafelyRoutine Screening for Pancreatic Cancer Not Warranted, Expert Panel SaysResearchers 'Spin' Clinical Trial Findings in Top Psych Journals: StudyMore 'Buyer Beware' Warnings for Unregulated Stem Cell ClinicsSome of Most Common, Deadly Cancers Get the Least Research MoneyTraveling Abroad? Make Sure Your Measles Shot Is Up to DateHey! That's the Wrong Knee, DoctorBlood Donations Needed: Red CrossKeep Unused Meds Out of the Hands of AddictsFew U.S. Universities Are Smoke-FreeNeed Emergency Air Lift to Hospital? It Could Cost You $40,000California Took on Anti-Vaxxers, and WonAnti-Vaccine Movement a 'Man-Made' Health Crisis, Scientists WarnAHA News: Even the Threat of Homelessness May Bring Higher Stroke RiskFDA Warns Two Kratom Marketers About False ClaimsExperts Want Doctors to Add Vaping to Youth Prevention PitchMany Health Care Workers With Flu, Colds Still Go to Work: StudyGlobal Efforts to Cut Smoking Show Mixed ResultsOne Simple Food Substitution Might Help Save the PlanetAHA News: 3 Simple Steps Could Save 94 Million Lives WorldwideRace Affects Life Expectancy in Major U.S. CitiesDrugstores Often Don't Have Opioid Antidote in Stock, Philly Study ShowsAntibiotics Pollute Rivers Worldwide: StudyAHA News: For LGBTQ Patients, Discrimination Can Become Barrier to Medical CareImmigrants Make Up 1 in 4 U.S. Health Care WorkersFDA Takes Hard Look at CBD
Questions and AnswersVideosLinksBook Reviews
Related Topics

Health Insurance

More 'Buyer Beware' Warnings for Unregulated Stem Cell Clinics

HealthDay News
by By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter
Updated: Aug 1st 2019

new article illustration

THURSDAY, Aug. 1, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Folks who get treatment from a stem cell clinic could be spending their money on what amounts to snake oil, a new study warns.

Doctors administering stem cells might have no expertise in the condition they're trying to treat, and the cells themselves might be derived from questionable or discredited sources -- if the treatment contains any stem cells at all.

"The stem cell treatments offered by these clinics have not been through the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] approval process, so their safety and efficacy has not been systematically tested or documented. It's a 'buyer beware' situation," said lead researcher Emma Frow. She is an assistant professor of biological and health systems engineering at Arizona State University in Tempe.

"Also, these treatments are usually not reimbursed by insurance companies, so consumers have to pay out of pocket," she said.

Dodgy stem cell treatments can be dangerous. Three people have been blinded by stem cell injections intended to treat their macular degeneration, Frow said, while other cases have raised cancer concerns.

In November, the FDA issued a warning letter to San Diego-based Genetech after a dozen patients in three states were hospitalized with serious bacterial infections after receiving injections of umbilical cord blood purportedly containing stem cells. The products were tainted with E. coli and other dangerous bacteria.

A variety of ailments … and workers

Frow and colleagues identified 169 stem cell clinics in the southwestern United States. They catalogued the treatments being offered and the medical personnel staffing each center.

About a quarter of the clinics focused only on stem cell treatments.

"For the other 75%, stem cell treatments are one among some or many different possible treatment options at the clinic -- for example, a sports medicine clinic that lists stem cells as just one among a whole roster of different treatment options for sports injuries," Frow said.

The study showed that stem cell clinics are operated by a wide variety of health care workers.

Nearly three-quarters of employees at clinics that focus solely on stem cells are doctors with either an M.D. or D.O. degree, researchers said.

They found that 14% of employees were either chiropractors or naturopaths; 7% had some other medical qualification; 5% had a graduate degree; and 2% had unspecified qualifications.

But even fully credentialed doctors might not be specialists in the conditions that their clinics promise to treat, researchers said.

"Specialists in orthopedics and sports medicine are more likely to restrict stem cell treatments to conditions related to their medical specialties, while care providers with specialties in cosmetic or alternative medicine are more likely to treat a much wider range of conditions with stem cells," Frow said.

Providers administering stem cells had a wide range of specialties, including family practice, internal medicine, anesthesiology, general surgery, cosmetic surgery, dermatology, sports medicine, acupuncture and herbal medicine.

Fat tissue was the stated source of stem cells for nearly two-thirds of the clinics, according to the study. Fat-derived stem cells were used to treat a wide range of illnesses, including neurodegenerative disorders, heart problems, gastrointestinal complaints, diabetes and muscular dystrophy.

Treatments derived from fat tissue may need FDA approval, and none has been granted, researchers said.

"Most of the businesses we profiled are likely not offering treatments that consist of pure stem cell preparations," Frow said. "The clinics usually don't make much information available on their websites, but the typical methods they mention for extracting and preparing the most common types of treatments on offer don't result in pure preparations of stem cells."

Watch for 'cure-all' claims

If you're interested in stem cell therapy, pass on clinics that promote the treatments as a wonder drug, experts advised.

"If you see a business marketing stem cell treatments for 30 or 40 or 50 diseases, that's eyebrow-raising," said Leigh Turner, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics in Minneapolis. "If you see someone who's been practicing for years as a cosmetic surgeon claiming to treat ALS or spinal cord injuries, it's highly unlikely they've got something meaningful to offer."

Frow offered a series of questions that people considering stem cell treatment can ask:

  • How many different conditions does the clinic offer to treat with stem cells?
  • Is the clinic participating in a formal, registered clinical trial using stem cells to treat your specific condition? (If so, you should not have to pay out of pocket for the treatment.)
  • Does the medical expertise of the doctor fit well with the specific condition for which you are seeking treatment?

Unfortunately, stem cell clinics wield flashy marketing featuring personal testimonials aimed at desperate people who suffer from chronic and incurable conditions, said Turner, who wasn't involved with the study.

"People who are desperate or family members of someone who is ill or injured, they're looking for messages that there are treatments out there," he said.

The FDA has been saying for years that it plans to become actively engaged in regulation of stem cell clinics, but Turner isn't holding out hope.

"When you think about how many hundreds of businesses are operating in the United States, there is this question of are we really going to ever see a day where this marketplace comes under meaningful regulatory control?" he said. "As someone who's spent a long time looking at this, I'm not sure that day is going to come."

The new study appears in the Aug. 13 issue of the journal Stem Cell Reports.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about stem cell therapies.


Amazon Smile

To quit smoking, call Connecticut QuitLine at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Children and Adult services are available now with no wait time.  Please contact HBH Intake Department at 860-548-0101, option 2.


powered by centersite dot net