The stem cell hard sell: my new paper in Stem Cells Translational Medicine

stem cell hard sellI just published a paper in Stem Cells Translational Medicine on my experience traveling to and attending a stem cell clinic patient recruitment seminar.

It was an intense experience and one where I felt at risk. To some extent it is akin to going into the lion’s den. I didn’t know what reaction I would get if I were recognized by those running the seminar, which in fact did happen. They did not seem happy at all that I was there even though I wasn’t disruptive in the least. I had hoped to ask a few questions from my place in the audience, but the format did not allow it. Still I wondered if I could be kicked out. That didn’t happen.

I call these stem cell clinic seminars “infomercial” seminars because they remind me of hard sell pitches on TV.

One of the striking things about this seminar to me was the range of medical-related claims that were made (see summary table from the paper above). Clinics these days are often, but not always getting more careful about making FDA-related claims. At this seminar the claim was made that the stem cells being sold were FDA approved. I doubt that very much.

There were about thirty people at this seminar and there are hundreds of these seminars each year across the U.S. making it likely that thousands of Americans are attending each year. This is a big concern given the claims being made and the fact that some fraction of attendees will end up getting a non-FDA approved stem cell therapy that could put them at risk. These therapies are very expensive too.

Last year Dr. David Brafman did a guest post on his intense experience at a seminar at the Lung Institute.

Have you gone to a seminar like this? What was your experience? Did you end up getting a treatment and how did that go?

4 thoughts on “The stem cell hard sell: my new paper in Stem Cells Translational Medicine”

  1. I attended a seminar on 7/18/17
    It was held at a well known restaurant
    We were served a full dinner (cost?)
    It preceded by a two hour sales pitch on how successful the program 100% positive results which is lots of bs nothing is 100%
    I asked some questions as why Medicare would not cover it if it was more successful than having surgery, speaker gave a very vague answer
    If you signed up the evening of the seminar one could get a free consultation … this struck me like a time share scam
    I walked out before seminar was finished

  2. Very happy to see you do this. It’s the only way to really understand the true fraud opportunity and our new duty. To me it started about the ethics of our field, but turned into trying to protect the seniors they prey upon.

  3. Interesting experience @paul, sort of reminded me about what I’ve read about the sales tactics at Trump University. Big promises with little to back it up.

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