Update on patients lawsuit against stem cell clinic, Stemgenex

StemGenexThe website Law360 has an interesting update on the proposed class action lawsuit against the San Diego stem cell clinic Stemgenex.  Note that it seems you can read the full Law360 article without a subscription if you open the site in Chrome as your web browser. See more background on Stemgenex and on this case here.

Not surprisingly, the plaintiffs and defense see this case in opposite ways as reflected in quotes in the Law360 article:

“Plaintiffs make non-specific and conclusory allegations with respect to all named defendants,” StemGenex said. “The second amended complaint is so devoid of any specific facts to support its contentions that it is impossible for defendants to reasonably prepare a defense.”

Brian Findley of Mulligan Banham & Findley, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told Law360 Wednesday that the allegations are “quite specific” and cite false statistics, made-up online reviews and StemGenex employees. If customers told the company that the treatment hadn’t done anything, they were told it could take months to see an effect, or that they should buy another treatment, he said.”

A key issue in this case is the marketing of stem cell offerings from Stemgenex and the plaintiffs allege this marketing was problematic:

“The three StemGenex customers, Selena Moorer, Stephen Ginsberg and Alexandra Gardner, all say that they paid the company $14,900 for each stem cell treatments for lupus, diabetes and other ailments after being persuaded by the number of satisfied customers on the company’s website, but that the treatments had no effect.”

The Stemgenex website still lists an apparent 100% patient satisfaction marketing claim as of today, January 23, 2017 (see screenshot below).

stemgenex

Screenshot from Stemgenex website

According to the Law360 article, Stemgenex has made various arguments to support their motion for dismissal and they overall called the lawsuit a “fishing expedition.”

If you want to follow the case, here is some info:

“The case is Moorer v. StemGenex Medical Group Inc., et al., case number 3:16-cv-02816, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.”

It seems likely that more patient suits against stem cell clinics will emerge this year. Some, but not all of the other recent cases of this kind including against US Stem Cell, Inc. and its subsidiary US Stem Cell Clinic have been settled before any judgment was issued. I’m not sure of the status of a different proposed potential class action case against The Lung Institute. If you know of other such lawsuits please contact me or post a comment.

Grading my top 20 stem cell predictions for 2016: how’d I do?

Below are the 2016 stem cell predictions I made last year and their status now color-coded near year’s end. Green is right, orange is mixed bag, and red is flat out wrong.

Overall, I did better than most past years with only having entirely blown it on four.

Stay tuned later this week for my 2017 predictions, which looks to be a dramatic year in the field of stem cells and regenerative medicine.

The Score Card on 2016 Predictionsstem-cell-predictions

  1. Another stem cell biotech acquisition by pharma (recall Ocata (now finally sold to Astellas) & CDI in 2015). Grade: Some acquisitions, but not huge news.
  2. Charging patients for clinical trial participation, particularly in Japan due to the new policy and here in the US related to predatory clinics remains a hot topic. Grade:  Correct.
  3. Stem cell clinics and doping in sports flares up more. Grade:  not really the two together.
  4. Organoids continue to excite. Grade:  Correct.
  5. Bioheart and some other small stem cell companies struggle. Grade:  Correct.
  6. Stem cell stocks overall have a bad year. Grade:  Unfortunately, generally correct.
  7. Stem cell clinics ever more aggressively use celeb clients for PR and marketing. Why? It is powerful, effective, and essentially free advertising. Grade:  Correct.
  8. More news on human-animal chimeras. Grade:  Correct.
  9. FDA continues its slow-go approach to action on stem cell clinics/unapproved stem cell products. Grade:  Sadly correct.
  10. Pressure from industry and some academics on FDA to not regulate adipose products as drugs and/or to not enforce some other draft guidances including at the public hearing on the draft guidances. Grade:  Correct.
  11. FDA receives increasing public criticism for “slowness” on approving new stem cell therapies including from beyond the stem cell clinic industry. Grade:  Correct.
  12. One or more lawsuits against a stem cell clinic. Grade:  Correct in a big way. E.g. versus U.S. Stem Cell, Lung Institute, and Stemgenex.
  13. A new stem cell scandal pops up related to publication issues. Grade:  Correct. You just have to go visit Retraction Watch (e.g. the Spain mess), For Better Science, or PubPeer, and then also see the continuing Macchiarini debacle in particular.
  14. Some hiccups on mitochondrial transfer/3-person IVF in the UK or China. Grade:  Correct. Diseased mitochondrial carry-over and mito-nuclear cross-talk issues have popped up and deserve serious attention. Remarkably, nevertheless UK folks are going forward with it in humans anyway.
  15. The trend last year of increasingly blurred lines between legit research entities such as universities and dubious stem cell enterprises continues. This is worrisome. Grade:  Correct. For instance, see Rasko paper.
  16. Stem cell-derived human germ cells stay in the headlines. This has exciting potential for providing new windows into human development and tackling infertility, but also raises thorny issues such as human genetic modification. Grade:  Correct.
  17. ViaCyte has some big news. Grade: Not yet… 
  18. High-profile developments on veterinary use of stem cells. Grade:  Correct. 
  19. Animal cloning, particularly in China, continues to proliferate. Grade:  Correct.
  20. More rumblings on possible human reproductive cloning attempts. Grade:  Some here and there, but not much. See this piece on cloning focusing on 20th Anniversary of Dolly.

Stemgenex motion to dismiss aims to rebut stem cell suit claims

motion-to-dismiss-stemgenexSan Diego-based stem cell business Stemgenex is the subject of a suit over allegations about stem cell treatments. The company has now filed a motion to dismiss the case.

To me as a non-attorney, the Stemgenex motion to dismiss seems to emphasize overall vagueness of the plaintiff’s case and argues in part that there is insufficient detailed support of each claim.

From my reading of the plaintiff’s suit document, the case seems focused on alleged issues with Internet marketing claims and it provides details mainly on that level. Are all nine claims related to that? I’m not sure.

The motion to dismiss also asserts that there is a lack of detail on the specific alleged roles of each defendant as pertains to the nine claims. I’m more accustomed to reading, writing, and critiquing scientific materials (e.g. papers and grants), so court documents seem somewhat foreign to me and I don’t know what the expectations are for claims. I do feel like there are some lacunae in terms of specific details of the nine claims in the case, but is that par for the course at this stage?

Stay tuned as we all learn more about this situation and hopefully one or more experts in legal matters will weigh in on it.

Stem cell clinic lawsuits proliferate with latest against Stemgenex

StemGenexThere is a growing trend of apparently unhappy patients suing stem cell clinics, which have faced more lawsuits recently and some of these cases are proposed class action suits that could have much broader impact.

The latest case is against San Diego-based Stemgenex, a clinic that has claimed amongst other things that it can treat numerous diverse afflictions and that it has had a 100% customer satisfaction rate.

KPBS reporter David Wagner also has more on this story. Wagner also noted that Stemgenex has publicly argued for less FDA oversight of stem cells even as this case was starting to unfold. Amongst the around 600 stem cell clinics in the U.S., many of these businesses also argue for less FDA oversight.

What’s the back story on the Stemgenex case?

stemgenex-lawsuitEarlier this year there were some indications of attorneys being interested in a possible class action suit in part against a stem cell clinic in San Diego, but specifics had been lacking. Now a court document has provided new detailed information.

This case is Moorer v. StemGenex Medical Group. et at. The main named plaintiff on behalf of all the potential others in the class is Selena Moorer. A second plaintiff, Stephen Ginsberg, is mentioned later in the document as part of the “financial abuse of elders” subclass.

The defendants include the following businesses and individuals: Stemgenex, Stemgenex Medical Group, Stem Cell Research Centre, Rita Alexander, Andre Lallande D.O., Scott Sessions M.D., and DOE defendants 1-100. For the first three businesses listed as defendants, I don’t know at this time how they are interrelated versus different.

There are nine separate causes of action mentioned:

  1. “Violations of Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200 et seq
  2. Violations of Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code .§ 17500 et seq.
  3. Violations of the California Consumers Legal Remedies Cal. Civ. Code § 1750 et seq
  4. Violation of Human Experimentation Law – Cal. Health &; Safety Code § 24170, et seq
  5. Violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)
  6. Fraud
  7. Negligent Misrepresentation
  8. Unjust Enrichment
  9. Financial Elder Abuse”

I’m not sure why earlier in the document it lists only 8 complaints and then later the 9 complaints listed above are mentioned. There are a lot of other potentially notable things mentioned in the document as well such as that Stemgenex charges $14,900 per treatment. If I understood the document correctly, this case has now gone from being a California suit to a federal case. I’m not sure on why and what implications that might have.

Importantly, keep in mind that we do not know if any of these allegations are factual and there is no court ruling on any of them. Stemgenex reportedly did not respond to requests from KPBS for comment. If the company comments on the case I’ll do a post on that.

What about the stem cell clinic area more broadly?

More generally, as mentioned earlier, it’s been an active year for lawsuits against stem cell clinics. The community learned last week about the second of two different stem cell lawsuits against Florida-based U.S. Stem Cell, Inc. At the end of August there were indications of a possible class action lawsuit against The Lung Institute, another stem cell clinic.

I’m not a lawyer, but I wonder if class action suits, if approved, could be combined and then end up encompassing many different clinics across the U.S. as defendants. Continue reading

Report on day 2 of FDA stem cell meeting: patients, researchers, & more

The FDA’s stem cell meeting wrapped up today on day two with a diverse group of individual speakers. A series of patient testimonials today in favor of clinics was one thing that stood out. You can read my take of day one and the account of Jeanne Loring who was at the meeting. I’ve noted that on average about 350 people were watching the webcast of the meeting both days.

fda-stem-cell-meeting-day-2

Screen shot from FDA stem cell meeting webcast

The patients gave powerful, often emotional testimonials today on their experiences at various stem cell clinics including Celltex and most prominently Stemgenex. I think there were 7 of its patients who spoke. I have no doubt of the patients’ sincerity in their belief that they’ve been helped.

Various stem cell clinic doctors also testified.

As with yesterday, a common statement was that there are “no side effects” of stem cell treatments, which is concerning as all medical therapies have some risk of side effects.

Continue reading