Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Stem Cell Clinic The Lung Institute

The Lung Institute
Screenshot from The Lung Institute website

Is it possible that a growing number of lawsuits against stem cell clinics could freeze or reverse the growth of the clinic industry that sells unapproved medical therapies? If so, then it would achieve what so far the FDA hasn’t.

Both in the public domain and through the grape-vine I’m hearing that there are a growing number of attorneys zooming in on stem cell clinics.

The Lung Institute
Screenshot from The Lung Institute website

Here in California a law firm is advertising a potential class action suit against one or more stem cell clinics. Details remain sketchy so far.

Now late last week, The Tampa Bay Times reported the filing of a class action suit by Tammy Rivero against the stem cell clinic The Lung Institute (HT to Alexey Bersenev):

“In 2014, Rivero took out a home equity loan to pay $7,500 and traveled from her western North Carolina home to Florida to undergo stem-cell therapy at the Lung Institute in Tampa. The institute claimed she would see results in a matter of weeks, according to a lawsuit Rivero filed last week.

Instead, according to the suit, she got worse. Now Rivero, 58, is the first of what her attorney says are dozens of former patients seeking class-action status in a legal action against the institute.”

The Lung Institute has gotten attention in the past including for its patient recruitment seminars. CBS Chicago reported last year on an unhappy patient at the clinic.

The Times piece goes on to describe the heart of the case:

“Rivero’s suit says the Lung Institute violated Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act by duping clients into believing stem-cell therapy worked despite the absence of credible medical evidence.

“It’s one thing for folks that have an incurable disease to try experimental treatments,” said Rivero’s attorney, Ben Vinson Jr. of Tampa. “But it’s another when the person offering the treatment knows it doesn’t work.”

The Lung Institute was quoted as indicating that they believe the current case has no merit:

“Speaking for the institute, Lynne Flaherty Margnelli, executive vice president of Regenerative Medicine Solutions, said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times: “Lung Institute prides itself on putting patient care first and always operates with the patients’ best interests in mind. We do not believe the case has any merit and we look forward to resolving this matter.”

Of course, in cases like this the clinics are simply alleged to have done certain things and are innocent unless proven otherwise. The cases do shed interesting light on the stem cell clinic industry though.

The Times also included this interesting information:

“A 2015 Times story said there is little evidence that the institute’s treatment works for patients with incurable lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

Dr. Burton Feinerman, who was medical director at the Lung Institute when the Times story ran, said then that the American medical establishment is too slow to embrace developments.”

As a stem cell biologist myself, I’m not aware of solid evidence that stem cells of this kind could effectively and safely treat lung disease. To me this kind of use also sounds like it would likely be non-homologous use, and if so that would make the stem cells a biological drug seemingly requiring pre-approval by the FDA.

More generally, stem cell clinics are thought to generate large amounts of money and this issue came up in the Times piece as well:

“According to the suit, the cost of the procedures ranged from $5,000 to $12,000. The suit claims the institute, which occupies a fourth floor of a downtown Tampa office building, brings in at least $2 million a month.”

This financial claim may or may not be accurate, but that would add up to $24 million per year for just one stem cell clinic out of more than 500 in the U.S. today. Also of interest is if you figure the average cost based on this quote might be around $8K-$10K, then if these numbers are accurate that means that this clinic has around 200 stem cell customers a month. That sounds awfully high.

Do you know of any other cases of stem cell lawsuits?


  1. There is no way that this clinic or any other clinic doing stem cell procedures is taking in 2 million dollars a month. I’ve been to dozens of clinics in dozens of countries and even the most upscale high end clinics are not doing that kind of business.

      • Agreed. My pulmonologist warned me about these clinics 2 years ago. She called them “pop up clinics” as they pop up then disappear after a couple of years. The theory behind stem cell therapy may be good but at this stage it has not been perfected.

  2. I missed David B’s guest post to comment in time, but this was telling:
    “However, I was surprised by the reaction of the patients in the audience as the majority echoed Ms. Myers displeasure and were applauding as I was leaving.”


    • Trumpet/Puppets sorry the s didn’t fit correctly in the space provided however I love the nickname.

  3. Certainly, taking “a small blood sample”, separating the stem cells from it and then returning them back into the bloodstream doesn’t make any sense at all.

    • Apparently neither you nor I are in the medical professions, and you are mistaken. You would be amazed at the results when the stem-cells in that small vial of blood are treated in a lab and enhanced and concentrated. And they are safe for you to use because they are your own cells, so there is no risk of your body rejecting them.

      It seems important to me to know what you know, and to know what you don’t know… and to know the difference.

      • Hi Richard, as a clinical immunologist, perhaps I can clarify. You say, “they are safe because they are your own cells, there is no risk of your body rejecting them.”

        I’m afraid that’s a widespread misconception, especially nowadays, in the autologous stem cell field. When cells are removed from the body, they begin to express a number of novel factors that may be recognized as foreign when readministered. The immune response can be innate or acquired and have both allergic and/or autoimmune character.

        Such changes are more likely to occur if cells are manipulated or ” enhanced and concentrated” as you put it. In this scenario, additional foreign factors in the media can act as adjuvants and generate an immunogen, which then strongly activates the immune system to fight the cells.

        • Shorrtly after making that post, I learned that even our own stem cells can be rejected by our bodies, because, among other reasons, laboratory manipulations can make changes int he stem cells that alert our immune system to deal with them as intruders.

          But that does necessarily mean that the treatement will damage us.

      • I also was one of the many people that put belief and money into the Stem Cell Institute I was in Tennessee clinic. Like many, I saw no change. Later I was doing research and I found out they didn’t give me stem cells at all, it was plasma. Stem cells , as far as I know ,can be removed only from bone marrow or fat removed by liposuction.
        When I was there people were coming for the second time after 6 months.
        I hope they are closed. I’m ready to get on board for a law suit!!!

        • Deb,
          Can you tell us why you think you only got plasma and no cells? Do you have a link for that or some kind of documentation?

  4. But it’s still worth a shot right? It can for some? Just because it didn’t work for several doesn’t mean it wont work on any..?

  5. I considered going to the Lung Institute Clinic when I was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis after suffering from its effect for 2 or 3 years prior to diagnosis. My prognosis was not good and was told in about 3 years I would need a Lung Transplant. I searched for many answers to beat this disease and I too was hopeless and nearly ended up going here to getting this done. I attended a few web seminars and was about to drop the $10,000. I even sent them my information and spoke to their staff in the front office. The only reason I think I didn’t rush into was because I would have to take off of work and travel to Tampa and also I didn’t want my regular doctors to know I was considering this so I never asked them to transfer my medical information to the Lung Institute.

    During the time pondering, I was able to do more research and found it quite odd that the only success stories from these treatments were advertised by the clinic themselves. I searched the web for weeks, possibly even months and I couldn’t find one definitive positive story that was independent from the clinic. Another thing that raised a red flag was Dr. Feinerman’s almost defensive nature when people who attended his live seminar’s asked valid questions about the effectiveness and risks for the treatment. He even went so far as to call traditional doctors that advised against this procedure as “idiots”; major red flag.

    As time went by I realized there was no “secret” way to beat the disease and if there were teaching hospitals would be all over it and at the minimum conducting clinical trials. I finally got to a point where I was able to accept that I would either eventually die, or get a transplant. Luckily for me it was the later as i received two healthy lungs in 2015.

    I truly understand the desperation of people looking for hope when nothing else has worked because I have been there and have lived to tell about it. I seriously hope this clinic and those like it aren’t selling false hope to desperate people who just want to live a normal life.

    • The Stem Cell treatment is quite fast, in the clinic ,they take your blood, and you wait in a room breathing Oxygen with the nasal tubing, then 20 minutes later they come back in and give your blood back by IV,and a booster injection, this happens for three days. then you travel back home. Call a place in Dunedin, Fla ,they send you a vaporizer and a medicine called Glutathion, and you breath that in for 30 days and it’s automatically reordered for you every 30 days,until you get better or quit the treatment plan….SO the treatment can be either $5,500 to $12,000….depends if you have the blood taken from the arm, belly fat area ,or bone marrow,which is the most expensive procedure, but it takes the same amount of time to spin the blood in the centrifuge machine…SO for me the treatment was a waste of $6,000.00 cause there wasn’t long enough time to separate the stem cells from the blood to be given back by IV the same day…

    • my son in law is about to be put on the lung transplant list. How has your life been since. could you private email me at [email protected]. Have been trying to investigate the Lung Institute. Your comments are most helpful. Gwen

  6. I’m a physician. Stem cells hold incredible promise but it’s more than just stem cells. Additionally, research must continue so therapies can be refined that actually help patients.

  7. Dr. Adam,
    I’m a 76 yr old man, was diagnosed with copd 12 yrs ago. Now I’m at the 4th stage..We watched the testimonies on the lung institute web site & the ones we watched said it helped them, and there lung function improved and there doing better, so after seeing that I was interested in having it done..I don’t know what to do now, after reading some people saying it was a waste of there money..Any advice would be very appreciated…

    • I was diagnosed with IPF back in 2014, and the only reason I’m alive today is because of a bilateral transplant. I too did extended research on this facility and procedure. I’ve been in your position and I was almost to the point where I was going to drop the $7500 – $12500 for the procedure.

      Despite all the red flags going off, I tried to ignore them holding out hope that this was the magical cure to solve all my breathing problems. If I wasn’t so turned off by the Dr’s attitude towards traditional doctors, who knows I may have done it.

      Based on what I’ve read, I don’t think the procedure would hurt you other than the risk of infection which is always the case with medical procedures, but at the same time, I don’t think it would help either.

      There are just too many red flags for me to be comfortable with anyone doing it unless they have that kind of money to throw away in case it doesn’t.

      I’m sorry to hear about your lung condition. Medicine has advanced quite a lot, but still not to the point where people don’t have to worry about lung diseases like COPD, asthma, and IPF. I am hoping for the best for you and that you make the right decision.

      • Thanks for info. How do apply for lung transplant. What is financial burden upon getting approve ny info appreciated. I have been researching stem cell therapy End it appears to me that if you can get true steam cell there maybe promise

  8. Had stem cell treatment last year it did nothing but make my bank account smaller it is a waste of time and money.

  9. I had the originally treatment for 8,500 A booster for 5,500. than the lung institute offered buy one get one free now its time for the free one and they don’t answer their phone I’m not sure about the first treatment but I got pneumonia after the second ,so I’m really upset

  10. My father went to XXX in July 2016 with the hope of relief. What a joke!! They just take your money and leave you feeling all hope is lost. Don’t they realize people come in there to get help and it’s usually their last resort? They don’t even use stem cells. I was told the only way to harvest stem cells is from bone marrow and adipose. When you ask for a refund they tell you they don’t give refunds, so you’re without the money and any help.

    Editor’s note: the name of the clinic was removed.

      • That’s not true I’ve personally met two people that are still alive 6& 11 years post lung transplant ! But on the other hand there are plenty of people that have died and or had major complications after surgery and there are multiple expensive medications that you will need to take for the duration of your life !!

      • There are a few people I know that are 8 and 12 years into having a lung transplant and doing well. But yes some are not so lucky. I believe its got a lot to do with your state of mind, what your quality of life you want and attitude. Myself went thought all the way to the end was just needed to sign and would of been given a number for the transplant waiting list. But after talking to the last doctor and finding out the percentage and my age at the time. well the numbers weren’t good enough for me. So I said no. I’ve been working really hard on my health and immune system. Going strong since 2012 and see my pulmonary doctor regularly. I’m still hoping there will be a positive answer someday on stem cell for your lungs. Look it already works for you knees so just maybe some day soon. Wishing hard

  11. I’ve had five or six stem cell treatments at the Lung Institute in Tampa, Florida since May of 2015, and I am feeling better that I did before my first treatment. I’m not on oxygen, I work at my jewelry shop most of the day 3 or 4 days a week. I am walking, talking proof that these treatemnts DO WORK, at least for some patients.

    The fact that some people did not have successful treatments is not a reason to sue. It’a not like buying a car. It’s new technology and every patient is unique. And I know that the Tampa Lung Institute is very careful to NOT guarantee any particular results.

    I am sure there are legal vultures ready to pounce on any excuse for a lawsuit if a person fails to improve after treatments. And ther are some unscrupulous competitors in the field who may
    influence patients of competing clinics. I found that to be true in Pinellas County, Florida, so when a clinic spokesperson started with his vitriolic accunsations about the Lung Institute, I was put off, and refused to accept any treatments from the competing clinic.

    • “I am walking, talking proof that these treatemnts DO WORK, at least for some patients.”

      No you aren´t, I´m afraid. You are an single statistic (n=1) that shows that it may have worked but equally well that you feel better for some other reason. You have no statistical proof that it worked and have not quantified the result, nor do you describe evidence for how it worked. With that logic you could say that acupuncture, veganism or scotch whiskey DO WORK at least in some patients.

      Sorry for the reality check, but this is just wishful thinking unless you provide clear evidence, comparative statistics and proof of mechanism.

  12. OK. Maybe it was “coincidence”. “Coincidence” for five (5) treatments over a period of about 30 months. Now that’s the kind of “coincidence” that I’m happy to take to the bank.

    Now don’t put words in my mouth. I’m not claiming to have been cured of anything. I still have COPD/Emphysema, and I’m sure it still causes damage to my lungs. But at the same time, I have new stem cells in my lungs that are supplying a higher yield of oxygen for my body than I was able to have before my first treatment. I feel like a million bucks now compared to my condition before my first treatment.

    So, whatever has happened during this 30 months has somehow made me able to work a full week, and take care of myself, doing my own laundry, cooking occassionally, and eating out often, at the age of 77. Any stranger can call it anything they want, but everyone who knows me knows the tremendous improvements in my breathing.

    I do understand that many people go for treatments at later stages of illness than I was at for my treatments, and that some of them had worse results, for whatever reasons. There also is a lot of work and regimens to follow to maximize the good results of the treatments. Patients vary in their
    applications of those duties.

    Everyone has their own reactions to medical treatments of all kinds, and you can use your “n=1” excuse for a success, or use your head and understand that if a patient has a good follow-up to a lung treatment, it is most likely because of that treatment.

    Sounds to me like several people on here have an unusual interest in defaming a health treatment that can be a huge benefit to many others. I wonder why. ( I have commented as “rcartjewelry” and as “Richard Canary” on this comment page.)

  13. It is a shame cause drug companies making 60 billion a year won’t let there be a cure. They pay politicians hundreds of millions a year so they can do as they please.

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