There was another federal indictment just handed down that alleges that one Francisco Morales (aka Dr. Frank Morales) broke the law with stem cells. Allegedly he took umbilical cords (telling patients that they would be used for medical research), facilitated isolation of stem cells, and shipped them out of state to be used in dubious stem cell treatments. The Houston Chronicle has an informative article on the case and quotes FBI Special Agent in Charge Cory B. Nelson:
“This investigation identified a scheme whereby the suffering and hopes of victims in extreme medical need were used and manipulated for person profit….The predatory and opportunistic nature of the crimes alleged in this indictment mirrors images from science fiction.”
60 Minutes (see video above) has been tracking this story for a few years.
The federal government is not happy with folks who are allegedly trying to make money by selling dubious, unproven stem cell treatments to innocent patients and their families. The FDA has long considered stem cells to be drugs and it is illegal to sell unproven drugs, particularly if the action involves transporting said drugs (stem cells) across state lines.
In this new case, reportedly Morales and two other men are accused on a number of charges most likely including interstate transport of an unapproved drug. The Feds claim that Morales and his co-defendants ultimately used the alleged “stem cells” isolated from the cords to offer unlicensed medical treatments in Mexico.
The good news here is the continued action by the Feds against purveyors of dubious stem cell treatments who allegedly prey on vulnerable patients and their families. The bad news is that these alleged crimes appear to be hugely increasing in number.
A key question remains–how does one tell the difference between a legitimate and a dubious stem cell treatment? It can be difficult, but it is important to keep in mind that there are currently no FDA approved stem cell treatments in the U.S. besides bone marrow/hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.
Another important possible element to this story is a possible link to a longtime anti-embryonic stem cell activist and adult stem cell treatment facilitator Don Margolis.
Margolis has his own website promoting adult stem cell research and at times attacking embryonic stem cell research.
Margolis’ website states explicitly that their goal is to connect patients with centers for stem cell treatments and link each patient with “one of the best stem cell research doctors in the world”.
Margolis’ site even has a form that one can fill out to arrange for treatments that apparently range in cost from $17,000 to $30,000 USD and it says below “note: can be more for complicated procedures”.
This is big money.
Interestingly, Margolis penned an article earlier this year extolling the benefits of adult stem cell therapies (the kind not approved in the U.S. as he points out), and at the bottom of his article (see screenshot below) he included a video that has in it “Dr. Frank Morales” who offers the same kinds of adult stem cell treatments that Margolis so strongly advocates…yes, the same Frank Morales who is the defendant in the latest indictment and is not in fact a doctor at all.
In this 60 minutes video Morales and his fellow purveyor of dubious stem cells are interviewed pretty harshly. So why did Margolis include the video in his article?
It is difficult to understand the motivation and I won’t speculate.
An important question is whether Margolis directed any patients to Morales for treatment. I’m sure the Feds are very interested in this question.