Rick Perry’s first stem cell rodeo: it ain’t pretty

Texas Governor and GOP presidential nominee wannabe, Rick Perry, seems to have stepped in it again when it comes to stem cells.

It seems he put the cart before the horse on a grand scale, getting what appears to be an unlawful treatment and only now pleading for it to be legalized after the fact in Texas. Perry is a very strong opponent of ES cell research, which by the way is currently entirely legal at the federal level unlike the apparent stem cell treatment he received.

I should note that this is Rick Perry issue, not a Texas issue. Texas has a phenomenal amount of great stem cell research going on and great advocacy including that of my friend Keri Kimler at Texans for Stem Cell Research.

On July 1 of this year Perry had a stem cell treatment in Houston, Texas USA as part of care for a back injury. While the details are few, reportedly Perry had an autologous stem cell treatment. In English this means his own stem cells were isolated most likely from fat tissue and given back to him as a transplant.

What’s wrong with that?

One problem–the treatment is not legal in the U.S., no matter what state you are in and no matter what state politicians might say.

The FDA has not approved such treatments. The feds frown on giving unapproved drugs such as this.

I guess it is kind of embarrassing for a candidate for president of the U.S. to have received an unlawful medical treatment. Perhaps that is why now his camp is trying to make it legal after the fact. They seem to be barking up the wrong tree though by trying to make it legit in Texas, when it is federal law that would govern the situation.

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that Perry is lobbying the Texas Medical Board to approve the treatment he already had.

They quote Perry as follows:

“With the right policies in place, we can lead the nation in advancing adult stem cell research that will treat diseases, cure cancers and, ultimately, save lives.”

Apparently the Texas Medical Board is not likely to come onboard with this proposal.

As a cancer and stem cell biologist and cancer survivor I can tell you that we are a long long way from an adult stem cell cure for any type of cancer. As much as I as a patient advocate want the FDA to do its best to expedite clinical trials to get needed therapies to patients, we can’t take short cuts.

While the Chronicle article states that if the Board approved the treatments such as the one that Perry already had that it would likely stave off possible problems with the FDA, I think they are wrong. Federal law trumps state law or regulations, and the FDA is the only party regulating the rules for drugs such as stem cell therapies.

Of course these stem cell treatments are not allowed by federal law so this has great potential to be not only difficult but also very messy.

Governor Perry, first you have to get something legalized and then do it, not vice versa. I don’t think anyone believes the FDA would go after a patient such as Perry, but this situation is certainly something that a candidate for U.S. President probably does not want to be involved in and eventually it will come up in the campaign. I think it also sets a bad example for others.

The Texas Medical Board is taking input from the public and the Chronicle quotes one commenter about the need to:

“protect patients from risky treatments advanced by overzealous, even greedy, entrepreneurs.”

Well said.

The bottom line is that Perry sure looks like this is his first rodeo when it comes to stem cells. In fact it is mighty ugly.

2 Comments


  1. They might not ‘go after’ Mr. Perry but they would would certainly be legitimate in criticizing the doctors who advocated and then performed the procedure.

    His political rivals would be well advised to trump this up as a bad example like you say as well as an opportunity highlight hypocrisy; Where is IPS research without embryonic stem cell research? Politicians have a bad habit of presenting absolutes in a world of interconnected research. In this case the work on embryonic and IPS cells is reciprocally illuminating and cannot be separated at this time.

    If he’s against embryonic research he must be against IPS cell research as it is intertwined with ESC research.

    Regardless, he’s not getting my vote.


  2. 1) Let’s look at the bright side: a republican in favor of stem cells research…
    2) Let’s look at the “oh, what a surprise side”: a republican with a double-standard for the rule of law.

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