May 31, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Shh! Top 10 stem cell clinic secrets kept from patients

Shh stem cell clinic secretsFor-profit stem cell clinic secrets are bad news for patients.

Stem cell clinics are in the business of making profits above all else and to make steady money they need a strong flow of patients as their paying customers for their non-FDA approved offerings. In order to keep the money pouring in, some of the clinics may not be completely truthful with patients. These clinic secrets can be directly told to prospective customers or implicit in the operation of the business. Below are the top 10 stem cell clinic secrets that clinics don’t want patients to know because then the businesses would lose money. In many cases the clinic businesses themselves have told me these realities kept from patients over the years.

  1. Not enough cells. Often there almost certainly aren’t enough living cells in their treatments to do any good. Some of the clinics have actually told me over the years that they are convinced that to really work the treatments require cells have to be grown in a lab first to have sufficient numbers. But, even so they sell the non-proliferated cell treatments that they themselves believe to be underpowered because of too few cells. Nice, huh?
  2. Even they aren’t believers. They don’t really believe their treatments work. They often are counting on the placebo effect. They have actually said this on rare occasions. They are selling a placebo for $5K, $10K, or even $20K a pop, but mostly don’t want to admit it.
  3. People have been hurt. Some of their customers have been harmed by them over the years. People have died, been blinded, had tumors sprout up, have bone grow in their eyelid, and more. The clinics don’t tell new customers about this. Some even say the offerings are “100% safe”. Really?
  4. Millions in profits. Some of the businesses are making millions off of customers. The clinics are roughly estimated to have total costs per treatment of about $1,000. While they generally do not release patient volume stats, estimates suggest that many of the clinics are making millions off of patients in profits. But the clinics portray themselves as just being in it for the well-being of their patients like some kind of “Robin Hoods of stem cells”.
  5. Stem cell newbies. Some clinics don’t know squat about stem cells. So some clinics have physicians who are long-time experts in stem cells and transplantation, but most don’t. Some even have been trained by folks who don’t have an M.D. or even a Ph.D. or anything.
  6. Non-specialists. If you have a specific condition, you need a specialist. CNS problem? Do you really want a dermatologist, plastic surgeon or urologist handling your case? Respiratory problem? Don’t you want a pulmonologist? Have M.S.? Do you really want a cosmetic surgeon treating you? It makes no sense. Just because stem cells are involved doesn’t remove the need for speciality training.
  7. They’ll experiment on kids. Some stem cell clinics have pediatric customers. Providing medical care to kids raises unique medical issues and ethical considerations. Some clinics shouldn’t be treating kids with a 10-foot pole because they just aren’t qualified, but they do it anyway for the money.
  8. Safety shmafety. “The worst that can happen is that it won’t work” is like a mantra for some stem cell clinics, but it is total B.S. Most of the clinics don’t really know them to be safe conclusively based on properly controlled studies. But they say the treatments are very safe anyway to reassure customers.
  9. Past-patient or recruiter? There are so many patient testimonials out there and there are some patients who energetically advocate for specific clinics. In some cases, these patients truly believe they’ve been helped and want to spread the word, but sadly in other cases the people portraying themselves as patients are either patients who are receiving payments/discounted treatments from the clinics or not patients at all, but are rather recruiters for the clinic posing as patients. Some claimed patient satisfaction rates at certain businesses also seem a bit too good.
  10. FDA?  Lately the clinics are adding more disclaimers to their websites such as “The stem cell treatments offered here are not claimed to have any benefit and are not FDA approved”. Sometimes the sites say outright that they do not need FDA approval. At best that’s a highly debatable statement. Some of them don’t really believe they exempt from FDA rules. They’re just hoping to be lost from oversight by the FDA in the herd of hundreds of other clinics. Or they just don’t really give it much thought at all. We’re hoping our new law on stem cell therapies here in California will help with this problem.

Overall, keeping secrets from patients is all about profits, not patient wellbeing.

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