How Much Do Stem Cell Treatments Really Cost?

Stem cell treatments of various kinds are now widely available in America at more than 100 stem cell clinics offering non-FDA approved interventions for dozens of conditions.

American patients are often recruited on the Internet to travel around the US or to Mexico and other countries.

How much do these stem cell treatments cost?stem cell treatment cost

American clinics charge approximately $10,000 per treatment. Notably, many patients gets more than one of these non-FDA approved treatments and must pay each time of course.

Some clinics have reduced prices to the $7,000-$8,000 range. Interestingly, costs for treatments outside of the US are usually far higher than in the US, charging anywhere from $20,000 all the way up to $100,000. These clinics still generally have Americans as clientele. Whether inside or outside the US, insurance does not cover the costs of these potentially dangerous, unproven treatments.

Clinic profits are difficult to estimate and vary depending on the type of stem cells and other factors such as malpractice insurance cost. However, I have heard estimates of the clinics’ own costs being around $1,000-$2,000 per treatment, yielding a very high profit margin.

Part of the way that clinics cut corners to boost their profits is by not following FDA regulations, putting patients in danger. Clinics typically do not do pre-clinical studies to get evidence of safety and efficacy before starting to sell their offerings to patients. Clinics also do not include sufficient follow up in the cost of the treatments. They do not publish their data to get peer review and feedback. They often do not have GMP compliant facilities or devices.

Patients themselves are frequently unable to afford these expensive, unproven stem cell “treatments”, and so they turn to their communities including churches, friends, and family to do fundraisers. For example, a coach reportedly recently raised $70,000 for a stem cell intervention from his community. Update: The non-FDA approved Stemedica stem cell intervention sold in Tijuana via partner Novastem reportedly costs $32,000-$40,000 a pop.

With the rapidly increasing number of clinics right here in the US, in theory one might imagine costs would go down due to competition. It’s not clear if that is driving some clinics to lower prices.

Of course other costs to patients going to dubious clinics, sometimes not considered, include the price of false hope, potential injury due to dangerous stem cell “treatments”, possibly being excluded from a real clinical trial in the future, and injury from deferring other arguably more real treatments.

23 thoughts on “How Much Do Stem Cell Treatments Really Cost?


  1. As a matter of clarification, FDA approval is not even relevant to all “stem cell treatments” in the USA (let alone elesewhere). And some USA clinics that provide stem cell treatments do publish their results in peer-reviewed literature.

    My reading of clinic websites leads me to the conclusion that there is a continuum: from the very good, to the not-so-good, to the bad, and to the down-right-ugly.

    Pity we can’t all be more specific….


  2. This was discussed at the uc Davis ethics seminar. .. I would need to go back to my notes to see exactly. .. Paul would know… but I do remember it was said there were more in California than any other state.


  3. Paul, I’ve just submitted a paper for publication in an ophthalmic journal on a proposed model for pricing stem cell and gene therapy treatments for use in the eye, based on a population to be treated methodology. I also included a possible method for patients and the healthcare system to pay for these one-time high-cost treatments. This is for legitimate treatments, based on the results of an approved clinical trial. (Not for the type of treatment you discuss above.)

    More when I learn if the paper is accepted for publication.

    Irv


    • Hi Irv, I can’t wait to read it. Sounds important and novel. I’m going to do a follow up on more legit therapies and price prediction for future ones. Thanks.


  4. Why no mention of the clinics who offer treatment at no or very low cost for patients who want to participate in a study?


  5. I am frankly deeply disappointed at your statements here. It might be correct with a few clinics, but from a patients point you miss the points all together.
    Most of the clinics do make an effort in helping their patients in providing a much better QOL. Sure the patients take “a risk”, but developments in this field for over forty years I believe the so called risks are minimized.
    Furthermore the cost-analysis you proved here are just including parts of the medical areas, and the you have to add up cost of labour, rent, eqipment and handling. The clincs do not have huge profits like you try to portrait here. Btw; Nortwesteren offer their SC services outside their HSCT studies at cost of over $120.000.-…
    My advice to you is to conduct your ethics from a patient perspective. Help us getting standardized rules and regulation that eases SC treatment, and not forcing patients to seek help outside US. Help setting up reporting tools so we all can gain greater insights and learn from experiences, in order to reach best practices.
    Rgds Bjorn


  6. Paul, Iam surprised that an advanced country like US has still not been able to sort out this issue exposing gullible patients to unproven therapies by snake oil salesmen at high cost ….. no wonder , lesser advanced countries like India too follow the same path…. wonder what is the way out?


    • Hi Dr. M.Chandrashekhar. It is a very unfortunate situation. Part of the responsibility sure rests with the FDA, which has not been proactive and clear over the years, but it seems to be on a better tract with its new draft guidances.
      Paul


  7. Hey Paul,
    I remember a guy named Gary Rabin who used to be the CEO of Advanced Cell Technology, who have since renamed themselves Ocata, saying their small doses of cells,50 or100,000,cost about $100.00 to produce.
    Of course they fired him for numerous failings,but that is what he said.I’m sure he was not considering the years and years of expenses leading up to these amazing cells.So once you’re to the point of production,it’s cheaper than we are being led to believe.


  8. What is the purpose of rehashing this topic? Unless you examine financial statements from all the clinics you claim exist, then no credible conclusion can be drawn by just speculating about “high profit margins” that you heard about from unnamed sources.
    Initially I shared Bjorn’s disappointment in your statements, but then I realized that this is just an opinion piece, not a factual article that has been well researched and you are entitled to your own opinion.


  9. Paul,
    I have followed your blog for quite some time. I comment now because I feel that reading this blog would lead readers to believe that research, clinical trials, safety papers and peer reviewed papers are not being published by the physician innovator leaders in the stem cell field. Which is quite myopic, as they are.

    I think it is fair to say that there are ethical and unethical participants in both the academic and physician arenas. Even the FDA has recently published their concerns about ethics and bias in university research, and there are certainly new “stem cell clinics” being opened daily by Dr.’s who see this as a good business plan, take a weekend course, purchase a bedside centrifuge, and have no idea what they are doing. Both these situations put the public at risk, and honestly, what drives both of these wrongs is the same thing…greed.

    If the public good is the goal, I think it is important to acknowledge the very real progress being made by and the thousands of patients being helped by physician innovators who are the front lines and who devote the time and financial resources to assure the safety of, and the constant improvement of what they can do for patients. It is only in doing what has already been shown to be safe and effective that this technology will become the “common practice of medicine” and within the reach of everyone. In the meantime, as scientific professionals one should be looking to support access to safe, ethical and proven stem cell treatment….no matter which paradigm it originated in.


  10. Mr Knopfler, you wantef me to “provide concrete evidence that most clinics do not make much profit?”. Ii honestly thought you knew that this is numbers that have to be disclosed by the clinics themselves… I simply pointed out that there are alot more areas of cost than you portray. Nothing would please us patients more than having many clinics to choose from, and that means we would love to see some effort from you and your peers into making this possible instead of spreading fear and do everything possible to minimize the number of clinics. Personally I paid less than $5000 for a SC treatment recently… Abroad…


  11. Very interesting article. Do you have any more information about these gene therapies? Is it already possible to cure haemophilia? or similar disorders?


  12. Hi Shinsakan,

    That’s part of what I included in my new writeup — the how to pay for it. The first part is what it will cost.


  13. Cost, Profits we all need to live and you seriously want to tell me a bottle of water is really 3 bucks or a maybach really costs 500K to make come on guys you are all grown up


  14. Paul, my article was published late last week in the May issue of The Ophthalmologist. Here is how I would describe it:

    What will Ophthalmic Gene Therapy and Stem Cell treatment cost and how will we and the healthcare system pay for it?

    With the likelihood of a gene therapy and/or a stem cell treatment for retinal diseases to be approved for marketing within the next two to three years, it is time for the ophthalmic community – the suppliers, practitioners, patients and payers – to start thinking about how much these regenerative medicine treatments are likely to cost, and how patients and the healthcare system will pay for them..

    In The Economics of Gene Therapy, I propose a pricing model for Regenerative Medicine in Ophthalmology, based on the population of patients to be treated, and suggest that an annuity program model, based on performance and duration of efficacy, could be used to pay for it.

    Let the dialogue begin.

    To read all about it, please follow this link: https://theophthalmologist.com/issues/eye-robot/the-economics-of-gene-therapy

    You need to sign up to read the article, but it is free.

    Irv

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