Stem cell treatment cost: you often don’t get what you pay for

stem cell treatment cost

How much does a stem cell treatment cost?

$5,000 is a nice round number that is probably close to the mark on average, butstem cell treatment cost the price varies a great deal and depends on many factors.

Factors that influence perceived average price include what one actually sees as being under that umbrella term “stem cell treatment.” Does the transplant from a stem cell clinical trial count as a “treatment”? I’m not sure it should, but many view it as qualifying for that definition. By and large, you shouldn’t have to pay for the investigational offering itself in such a trial.

There may be other costs though such as hotel, food, travel, and certain expenses that neither the trial itself nor insurance will cover.

Once stem cell treatments are fully proven to be safe and effective as well as finally FDA approved, the costs are going to be high in many cases, but perhaps low cumulatively relative to standard medical care especially for chronic or severe conditions.  I’ve posted in the past about what FDA-approved stem cell therapies may cost in the future including here.

Within the for-profit stem cell clinic sphere, some of which characterize themselves as offering “clinical trials” and/or are listed in Clinicaltrials.gov, the costs you pay as a patient depend on certain factors including what profit margins the clinics are aiming for when they recruit you as a customer. I’ve posted before on for-profit stem cell clinic treatment cost as well here.

Notably, in the past few years probably due to competition from the hundreds of businesses out there, stem cell clinic charges to patients have dropped somewhat. A few stem cell clinics that mention price online seemed to hover around $4,500 for the first treatment and less for additional injections. A recent ad for a stem cell clinic recruiter suggested cost per treatment for patients was around $8,500.

I also did an internet poll last month (September 2017) asking readers of this blog who have had a stem cell treatment to indicate the range of the price that they paid. Overall, from what I understand from talking to patients, from the poll, and from talking to clinics over the years, at present most stem cell clinic-based offerings cost from $2,500-$7,500 per transplant. In the poll about 1/6 patients paid more, anywhere from $10,000 to above $100,000. Of course, such polling is not rigorous, but there isn’t much info out there. Some patients are encouraged to get more than one treatment from a business so that’s another factor that can multiple total cost.

Another question is, “was the treatment worth the cost?”

Overall, I’d say that at clinics as a consumer you probably most often aren’t getting what you paid for, if one maintains high medical standards. Maybe almost never.

Why?

Many reasons come to mind.

Maybe the provider isn’t a specialist in the area of your condition (e.g. dermatologist treating your brain).

Often the therapy you purchased may have no living cells or have no actual stem cells in it (even as it is marketed as a “stem cell” therapy, suggesting to customers they are getting living stem cells.)

There usually will be no good, properly controlled data to back up safety and efficacy.

Follow-up to the infusion can be minimal.

The list goes on. A big overall factor here is that you are paying to be experimented upon, which in my view isn’t fair.

Another interesting question comes to mind: how much does it cost the clinics per “treatment” for stem cell offerings? And then, we can ask, how much profit do they make per treatment?

Clinics don’t open up about this stuff so it is left to some educated guesses and speculation. Apparently amniotic “stem cell” therapies often aren’t even real cell therapies and sometimes are just reconstituted protein extracts from amniotic membranes so cost there can be <$1,000 to the clinic.

Things like PRP, which are often mistakenly called “stem cell therapies”, can be cheap to make in the only hundreds of dollars a dose range. Adipose stem cell therapies involve multiple steps that can boost costs including liposuction and most often involve cellular processing into what is probably usually going to be a drug product. Bone marrow isolation isn’t trivial.

Other stem cell clinic offerings may cost the clinics anywhere from $1K-$2K, perhaps sometimes higher. The cost to the clinics more broadly will often depend on how careful they are with their QC and methods. The fact that so many clinics are not getting FDA approval surely reduces their costs, but at what cost to patients in terms of risks?

The economics of stem cells is an area more deserving of attention and it would benefit from hard data.

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