A large and growing number of American clinics are selling stem cells to patients for a variety of ills and one in the San Diego area called StemGenex was the main focus of a recent LA Times piece by columnist Michael Hiltzik. In the piece called “These new stem cell treatments are expensive — and unproven” Hiltzik discussed the growing issues over stem cell clinics in the U.S. and he used StemGenex as a kind of test case or example.
He started off with a description of the kind of hopeful feeling that many patients experience upon visiting stem cell clinic websites:
“Visitors to the website of StemGenex, a La Jolla medical group, could be forgiven for thinking that the answer to their prayers is finally at hand.”
However, there is little published data to support the expectation that one’s prayers might be answered at U.S. stem cell clinics today. I talked with Hiltzik about the state of the American stem cell clinic arena and my concerns as he was researching his piece. The marketing of stem cells is too aspirational in my view and patients are sold medical interventions in many cases that may not work and have potential risks. Hiltzik writes (emphasis mine):
“StemGenex’s director of media and community relations, Jamie Schubert, told me that its “principal purpose is helping people with unmet clinical needs achieve optimum health and better quality of life,” and that it has “anecdotal feedback … from our patients that their symptoms have dramatically improved and their quality of life has substantially increased.”
Keep in mind that we are talking about hundreds of clinics in the U.S. injecting living stem cells into patients’ bloodstreams or into specific tissues and most clinics out there do not have FDA approval to do this so anecdotes are not a strong foundation for this kind of practice in my opinion.
I often am asked if there are ongoing or possible upcoming lawsuits against stem cell clinics. Doing periodic searches such as on Google is one way to learn more about whether there are stem cell legal cases out there.
Recently I did such searches for a variety of terms including “stem cell lawsuit” and “stem cell fraud” and while no new actual Google results showed up that I hadn’t seen before, strikingly a new advertisement did show up for a law firm (see image above) looking into stem cell fraud with the latter search. I had not seen that before. Today I no longer see the ad, but it did pop up earlier in the week.
When I clicked on the ad link it went to this website, which is seeking Southern California patients who believe they may have been harmed or misled by stem cell clinics:
“If you paid for a stem cell treatment at a Southern California (San Diego, Orange County or Los Angeles) stem cell clinic between December 8, 2013 and July 1, 2016, you may be a member of proposed class of customers or patients who may be entitled to compensation.
The Law Offices of Mulligan, Banham & Findley are currently investigating a potential class action relating to potentially false or misleading advertising in web or other marketing relating to stem cell therapies in this region. This investigation includes potential fraud and consumer statute violations.”
This investigation is focused on California where Leigh Turner & my recent paper identified more than 100 stem cell clinics marketing what seem to be non-FDA approved treatments and in particular Southern California. As you can see from the map above from the paper there are tons of stem cell clinics just in Southern California.
This edition of our stem cell news bites finds a number of notable stem cell news items.
A potentially cool link between gut stem cells and microbiota is reported by Tae-Hee Kim of the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine. See the nifty image of the stem cells from Dr. Kim showing proliferating gut cells in green in roughly the same location where the stem cells find their home.The work mentioned relates to necrotizing enterocolitis. Note that this article mentions only mouse work so implications in humans are unclear and I could not find an associated publication so we’ll have to stay tuned to see the meaning of this development.
Dr. Tae-Hee Kim research image
Will formerly near death stem cell biotech Stem Cells Inc. ($STEM) be regenerated following its acquisition by another firm? This stem cell news has generated a lot of attention including this headline: “StemCells Inc picked up by Israeli medical devices firm.”What will $STEM shareholders get out of this? What is Microbot Medical exactly?
Stem cell clinic chain Cell Surgical Network has reported in the News section of the apparent death of a doctor who formerly was a member of that network, Dr. Steven Gitt. Dr. Gitt offered stem cell interventions via Phoenix Stem Cell Treatment Center. I was not able to find an obituary for Dr. Gitt, although his practiceNorth Valley Plastic Surgery mentions a funeral held a few weeks ago. My condolences go out to his family.
More stem cell newson a happier note, noted stem cell researcher George Daley is the new Dean of Harvard Medical School.