The upcoming big FDA 2-day public stem cell meeting next week is generating a lot of interest within the stem cell community and also with members of the media. I expect there to be tons of coverage, which should be a good thing (note that there’s a different FDA stem cell meeting tomorrow). If you can’t make tomorrow’s stem cell meeting in person and it is now closed to additional in-person participants, you can watch the webcast here.
Amongst the many speakers on the agenda for next week are quite a few patients/customers of stem cell clinics. These folks have in one way or another publicly indicated on the Internet that they went to clinics for stem cells. These particular patients mostly speak in glowing terms about the clinics that sell unapproved stem cell therapies, but often very negatively about the FDA.
Patient voices are very important and add to the depth of the meeting. At the same time context is needed given that some of these patients may at this meeting be de facto representatives of one or more clinics.
Since the FDA meeting will be in Bethesda, MD and most of these patients do not live in that area, a reasonable question to ask is if these individuals themselves are paying their own travel expenses including airfare and hotel, etc. or if instead specific clinics in some cases might be paying part or all of the way for their customers?
If this is occurring, why would clinics do this? Because they are hoping that the patients will be their powerful representatives at the meeting and exert pressure on the FDA for less oversight.
I’m sure some of the patients are paying their own way and if they are, kudos to them even if we don’t see eye to eye on stem cell oversight, but if any have had their travel costs paid in whole or part by clinics or received anything financially from the clinics in the past (or will in the future) including discounted treatment then they should publicly disclose that at the FDA meeting as it is important context in the same way that scientists disclose conflicts (e.g. owning shares in or having their travel paid by a biotech company) when they give presentations at a meeting.