Risky Stem Cell Clinics Are Popping up Across the State

“It looks as if regulatory bodies are more or less missing in action.”

By Joy DiazJuly 4, 2016 11:15 am

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Some say stem cell therapies are miraculous, touting their benefits as remedies for spinal cord problems, neurological diseases and more.

Yet others say it’s medicine’s Wild West. While legitimate clinical trials involving stem cell technology are underway, some businesses are marketing interventions to the public. These clinics’ claims are based on dubious science, and aren’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

If it sounds like these clinics are only happening in shadowy back-alleys in other parts of the world, think again: it’s big business in our own backyard.

These revelations come in a new study coauthored by Dr. Leigh Turner of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Bioethics & School of Public Health. He says that Texas ranks third in the nation for these risky stem cell treatments.

“A lot of businesses that we looked at they kind of just leaped into the marketplace and put out a shingle on the internet, and are making very dramatic, grandiose marketing claims,” Turner says, “but they don’t really have the science backing those kinds of promotional statements.”

Turner says that there are some legitimate uses and studies for stem cell treatments going on. But he warns that these businesses promising treatments for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), autism, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease often aren’t legitimate, and could be dangerous.

“I think we could talk about segment of this marketplace that is really very far along on the predatory end, taking advantage of people and not offering anything that’s effective,” he says. “And (there are) very serious questions about safety.”

What’s more, these markets aren’t subject to regulation.

“When you look at this marketplace, it looks as if regulatory bodies are more or less missing in action,” he says.

Turner says that while the FDA is picking up on these businesses, there still hasn’t been a lot of action on their part.

“FDA has issued warning letters over the last five or six years to businesses like the ones we found, but you don’t see an awful lot of visible activity from the FDA.”

Post by Alexandra Hart.