Customers rate Nervana stem cell clinic harshly on Yelp

Sacramento’s Nervana stem cell clinic has been selling non-FDA approved stem cell therapies to patients for a variety of conditions including arthritis, pain, and neuropathy for a while now since last year, but in my opinion there isn’t good evidence to back up using amniotic or fat stem cells for such conditions. Further, my understanding is that if living amniotic stem cells are being used in this way, they would constitute a biological drug requiring FDA pre-approval. Nervana’s advertising is part of a larger trend of stem cell clinics paying for mainstream media ads to broaden their customer base.Nervana Stem Cell Center

Still, for a while there we in this community saw many ads for Nervana in our local paper the Sac Bee and some patients told me they had gone to the clinic. Others were interested in learning more. Overall, I view the kind of stem cell offering being sold at such clinics as at best a risky experiment. So how have patients who paid $5,000 to Nervana felt their ‘treatments’ turned out? It’s hard to be sure, but one place that we are increasingly seeing such info on clinics pop up is on Yelp and other on-line review sites.

For Nervana, the Yelp reviews so far may be giving some indigestion. While there are only 4 reviews so far and that’s a very limited sample, the average rating is 2 out of 5 stars and it would be an average of 1 star, but for the single 5-star review.

Nervana Yelp

The 3 out of 4 Nervana Stem Cell customers who gave it one star are specific about their reasons why. One reviewer Barbara says, “the treatment was a failure”, she never saw the doctor there, and she indicates that she believes further testing would have shown that she wasn’t a good candidate for the stem cell therapy to begin with. She mentions she wouldn’t mind a refund.

Another reviewer SR also has some negative words for Nervana Stem Cell and pointed out as well that he wasn’t seen by a physician. Finally, reviewer Liz, who weighed in first, is “very suspicious” and self-reports that her husband was a customer at the clinic.

These kinds of reviews may reflect a growing trend where when considering a stem cell treatment or after one is received, the public view themselves as consumers and if they aren’t happy they will say so. In the past, I’ve suggested to people to at a minimum do your due diligence in advance about a possible stem cell therapy that you would do in buying a car. Ask a lot of questions, be skeptical, get other opinions, and more. See my patient guide to stem cell treatments and talk to your primary care doctor. When in doubt, don’t do it.

11 thoughts on “Customers rate Nervana stem cell clinic harshly on Yelp”

  1. My experience with Nervana stem cell injections has been quite successful. I’m grateful that I found them in San Diego while they had an office here; I have seen the doctor for a follow-up appointment herein San Diego after they closed their rather expensive appearing office space in La Jolla.

  2. You realize there is a whole section that Yelp didn’t even post on their main page? There are a few more GREAT reviews that you missed. Also the person from SD. Did they even have treatment? Didn’t seem like it so thats not really a good review to base anything from. From what I read on here. Stem Cell tx will not work for everyone. Its unfortunate that it didn’t work for two of the patients. You know what they say.. If you have a great experience you will refer 1 person. If you have a bad experience (or not the result you wanted) you will tell 100 people.

  3. Dr. Knoepfler:
    Like you, I just now utilized google for some light research.
    (I hope you are okay with that choice of words) I found also, in the city of Sacramento, a clinic called SAC Regenerative Orthopedics.
    I guess SAC stands for Sacramento. The ten positive and one negative Google reviews I found regarding this clinic…


    …appear in somewhat stark contrast to the four negative YELP reviews you found regarding the Nervana Clinic Stem Cell Center in your blog piece. (

    Without much further research on your part, it seems to me you could have included the eleven reviews on SAC Regenerative Orthopedics at least for the sake of balance. Perhaps then an alternate title for your most recent piece could have been: “Customers rate SAC Regenerative Orthopedics favorably on Google”. Naturally, this might not be in keeping with what I consider to be on your part a consistency of negative blog articles regarding regenerative clinics as a whole.
    However the Doctor who is head of the SAC Regenerative Orthopedic Clinic, seems to be something of a colleague of yours at U.C. Davis. (Clinical Faculty according to his web site). Like you, he’s interested in research regarding stem cells and has even published a few articles.

    How did you miss this?

    1. @Douglas,
      I’m not familiar with that physician and have not previously heard of that clinic.
      The nature of the affiliation with UC Davis (alluded to on that site) isn’t clear to me at this point.
      The number of new clinics marketing stem cells in the last few years has grown a great deal.

  4. James, I don’t think you understand the FDA. Paul’s not in any trouble for discussing what people think.

    But you should be careful about your claims for adipose and bone marrow treatments– not just concerns by the FDA, but the FTC cares about false advertising.

    1. I’ve read Dr. Knoepfler’s statements about the FDA in previous posts. I’d like to express essentially the same thing in writing about the practice of medicine. It is not a perfect institution. No argument there. I’m sure there are many plastic surgery, ob/gyn, orthopedic, ophthalmology, primary care etc clinics throughout the U.S. that you can dig up negative reviews on as well. Not every stem cell or regenerative clinic in the United States practices bad medicine. But some do. The fact that the good players have not been included in this post seems biased to me. And, “unproven therapies” in my experience as a patient seems much in the eye of the beholder.
      I don’t like the idea that the practice of medicine is essentially a business in our country which makes it more of a privilege than a right. But if all 570 plus regenerative medicine clinics in the United States were ripping off their patients, they probably would not be in business much longer. The public would likely find out about who are the bad players just as Dr. Knoepfler did. The regenerative clinic that has treated me is doing fairly well and this is remarkable to me despite their being hamstrung by the FDA with arbitrary rules about what constitutes a drug. At least MD’s, DO’s, PA’s Nurses and other health care providers in these clinics are more accountable to the public. They can be graded online (Yelp) for we the public to view. Then we can decide whether or not we want to patronize their clinics.

      1. @Douglas,
        I didn’t dig this up, but just found it via a simple Google search on page 1 results. You are correct that there are some clinics with more positive reviews out there, but this is the stem cell clinic in my city so it is of more direct interest. I’m not saying “good” or “bad” players about specific places, but find it interesting that patients are giving reviews like this. It’s probably part of the trend for years now of patients more generally rating their doctors and medical care on the web.
        It sounds like we won’t agree on the FDA and that’s fine because there are a range of opinions and part of the point of this blog is to stimulate open discussion amongst diverse stakeholders in this area. To me as a scientist it makes sense that some biological products such as certain kinds of stem cells will be drugs, while others won’t. I don’t see that arbitrary rules if the FDA backs it up logically. I’m hoping overall that the FDA under Gottlieb will be more open, clear, and direct about how it defines things and why. I doubt I’ll be a fan of all they say or do, but clearness and consistency will help. Thanks for your comment.

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