Predatory clinics push stem cell secret society, deep state conspiracy theory

Did you hear the one about the deep state FDA, big pharma stem cell conspiracy theory?

This is the phony idea that the FDA, big pharma, and, heck, sometimes even certain academics (who could that be?) are plotting together as some kind of biomedical secret society or “deep state” to block promising stem cell therapies from reaching patients. It is one of the more persistent stem cell myths out there. Unfortunately, the stem cell arena is more prone these days to this kind of fake news.

Why is this particular stem cell conspiracy myth still out there?

Some for-profit stem cell clinics are feeling the heat from the FDA and the media. If you are someone trying to sell a sketchy “stem cell” offering that (A) isn’t backed up by science, (B) isn’t government approved or really exempt from pre-market approval, and (C) poses real risks to patients, how do you continue to get new patients/customers in the door to take their money? How do avoid getting shut down or worse? What do you do to deal with potentially increasing regulatory and other pressure on your questionable stem cell biz? Well, one thing you can do is push this fake stem cell conspiracy.

In terms of the stem cell deep state conspiracy theory, could there be such a stem cell conspiracy for real? As far as I know, no. Plus, even if there was and I just didn’t know about it, how could it have stayed a stem cell secret so long? In my view, the conspiracy theory is just a cynical tool of certain for-profit clinics and/or those who ideologically favor less regulatory oversight of stem cells (also, see the Top 10 secrets of for-profit stem cell clinics in terms of how they try to keep customers coming in the door).

I’ve been blogging about stem cells for about 8 years so I’ve seen this fake stem cell conspiracy theory keep popping up, but today the stakes are higher with so many hundreds of clinics out there. So what should we do those of us advocating for rigorous, evidence-based stem cell medicine do?

The best way to deal productively with this situation and to battle this bogus stem cell conspiracy theory is for us to collectively continue educational outreach (including responding to patients who reach out as much as we can) and promote accountability and transparency. For instance, let’s keep challenging the clinics for properly controlled data that they submit to real peer review in a solid journal, not in some for-hire journal.

We also need to give strong feedback (both positive and negative, where appropriate) to the FDA and other regulatory bodies. We need to energetically advocate for these agencies to do more. Again, I like what I see from Gottlieb’s FDA so far, but it’s still early days on that front. Let’s try to get potentially helpful laws passed such as the one here in California and the one proposed in Florida.

Sometimes I’ve heard stem cell researchers say in a discouraging voice, “the war is over and the clinics have won” and I understand their feelings, but I’m not convinced it’s over. 2018-2019 could be a turning point for the better.

5 Comments


  1. @admin – Can you please cite at least one concrete example of an actual stem cell clinic (“for-profit” intentionally left out since most hospitals and clinics are “for-profit”, as are most business in general) pushing this alleged “conspiracy theory”.


    • Many. The new “miracle” stem cell video series promo material (many stem cell clinic folks involved, not saying all clinics are predatory though) says this, “For decades Big Pharma has controlled and manipulated the media to keep certain truths hidden. They’ve shamelessly bribed politicians (with billion dollar lobby budgets). They’ve lied to government health officials…And… they are repressing scientists who advocate the safety of stem cells.”

      Search for “big pharma” on some of the pro-clinic patient websites out there and you’ll see a dozen or more references to the supposed big pharma plot or synonymous statements.

      Some clinic folks have left comments on this blog too arguing this conspiracy theory.

      I don’t know your background, “Bill”, and if you have any ties to clinics yourself (perhaps not), but you’ve seemed to mention this theory too in comments on this blog such as “And no one in Texas cares what university professors and Big Pharma shills living in California, Minnesota, and New York think!” and “This explains the symbiotic relationship between Big Pharma and the FDA. Both benefit by more regulation.” Tons of other people, again some tied to clinics, have left comments mentioning the conspiracy too.

      Google will give more examples of this FDA-Big Pharma-stem cells conspiracy theory as well.


  2. First of all, I’m not representing any stem cell clinic with personal comments on this blog so my comments should not be characterized that way.

    The symbiotic relationship between Big Pharma companies and the FDA is a well-known fact. I can’t believe that you are not aware of this but just in case, here is a reference: “A Look At How The Revolving Door Spins From FDA To Industry” – https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/09/28/495694559/a-look-at-how-the-revolving-door-spins-from-fda-to-industry

    I still don’t think people in Texas care what university professors and Big Pharma shills from California, Minnesota and New York think. I didn’t say there was a conspiracy between them though. And, yes, Big Pharma pays lots of shills – the opioid crisis is a good example where lots of shills got paid.

    Comments made by the producer of that video series are being made by him personally and not by any of the clinics as far as I am aware. I didn’t see that clip so please correct me if I’m wrong. Certainly part of what he says about Big Pharma companies “bribing” politicians via well-funded, powerful lobbying groups is true. I think “influencing” would have been a better choice of words since “bribery” implies they are doing something illegal (some have though). Big Pharma executives have lied to governments officials so that’s true too. I don’t think comes as any big surprise that large companies try to manipulate the media to their advantage either. Not sure I want to address a partial quotation regarding repressing scientists but the producer should have given at least one example of such repression if he indeed made that claim.

    Example of Merck lying: https://www.fda.gov/ICECI/CriminalInvestigations/ucm301329.htm

    Big Pharma billions in lobbying money and it’s effect on legislation (to the detriment of citizens): https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/19/big-pharma-money-lobbying-us-opioid-crisis

    and on CIRM – http://www.mygovcost.org/2017/09/29/stem-cell-scam-still-redistributing-money/


  3. It has been pretty well documented that the words “Conspiracy Theory” are those that were promulgated by the CIA themselves as a way of discrediting others who doubted the official version of things relative to the Kennedy Assassination. In many ways this strategy worked as ad hominem attacks often do for not truly engaging the facts but rather by dismissing those who have points of view not entirely consistent with the official version. Today, the game is played in much the same way. I should not find it surprising that Dr. Knoepfler’s use of “Conspiracy Theory” seems a method of essentially dismissing those who may doubt what he and others in positions of authority and power keep repeating relative to other claims about the therapeutic use of a person’s own stem cells. Today, a patient can potentially exercise greater autonomy through a fairly open internet, a good medical or public library and other points of view not always in step with the what the “experts” or the mainstream corporate interests are saying. This places a check on traditional sources of power that even 20 years ago would likely not have been questioned particularly by lay persons let alone patients. And yet empowerment of this sort seems met with at the very least skepticism and even derision by Dr. Knoepfler.


  4. Having worked as an orthopedic surgery consultant for a TX stem cell company and written the first signaling cell protocols in the nation for orthopedics in 2006, I can firmly vouch for this:

    “And no one in Texas cares what university professors and Big Pharma shills living in California, Minnesota, and New York think!”

    They must not care if you have any experience or understand any immunology or stem cell biology either. When you’re ignorant you believe if you say something it’s true. Kind of like saying there’s new cartilage on a MRI and publishing a paper to that extent. Maybe the authors thought no one would question them. My personal favorite is anyone faking like they are an orthopedic surgeon with their slick marketing tactics. Especially when they borrow titles from us. If you want to be an orthopedic surgeon, do a residency like the rest of us.

    Good thing I don’t need money so I can be honest.

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