Update on stem cell treatment cost for 2018 from ongoing poll

I get asked many questions about stem cell therapies, but one of the most common over the years has been about the stem cell treatment cost. For instance, a reporter might ask, “How much does a stem cell treatment for MS cost?” and a patient might ask me, “How much is a fair cost for a stem cell therapy for arthritis?” Or, patients will voluntarily tell me what they paid or mention it in the comments. We hear various numbers thrown around about costs so I decided to do a poll on this. I even did an early update on the results of this poll, voicing my skepticism that the costs paid were worth it.

But the poll has gotten well over 500 responses now so I thought I would revisit it and what it might mean.

You can see a screenshot of the images. It’s fair to say, as much as Internet polls aren’t considered particularly accurate, that this one largely fits with what is reported “out in the field”.

(On a side note, I wish there was such a thing as going out into the field for stem cell scientists as I’ve always been a bit jealous of scientists who really do go out in the field. What do we do, go out in the wild and catch wild or feral stem cells in the bush?)

Patients self-reported most often paying between $2,500 and $7,500 for their stem cell therapy so if we take the average of those we get that $5,000 figure that is what I hear most often from others. Yes, not necessarily very rigorous, but the result makes good sense. Not far behind though were responses in the $7,500-20,000 range.

About 1 in 10 respondents reported paying $20,000 or more, including some beyond $100,000.  That’s a whopping stem cell treatment cost, especially for something most often unproven and unapproved by the FDA.

If we consider these responses, the average cost may be more like $7,500-$10,000.

Notably, about 1/16 respondents indicated their stem cells were free. I’m not sure what that means in terms of how that came to be.

Interestingly, most respondents who also went on to answer a 2nd poll in that post about where they got the treatment indicate it was at a stem cell clinic (scroll down in that Oct. 2017 post and you’ll see the 2nd poll). This 2nd poll has about 200 responses.

So today buying a simple stem cell “treatment”, most often unproven and non-FDA approved, is often not so different in cost than buying a 10-year old used car, while less often it is similar to buy various new cars including at the high end of stem cell therapy cost, some very expensive new cars. This cost and the risks involved are why I have suggested to patients in the past to be assertive when considering a stem cell treatment, ask questions, don’t just accept too good to be true kinds of answers, etc. In short, be at least (or ideally much more) rigorous about unproven stem cell treatments as you are about buying a car.

45 Comments

  1. Thank you. However, importantly, I’d like to know how those who responded to the poll consider if the cost was worth it in improved mobility and/or health. Or even….simply – how did their treatment work? It’s so difficult to find this info.

    • That was going to be my comment in this thread. Just recently been looking at getting one of these treatments. Other than thenglorofoed testimonials THEY offer, I would like to know from those above that paid for it, was it worth it, how much relief was gained, how many injections did it take, etc….

    • The most information out there is at thehealingmiracle.com Here you can listen to multiple experts in the field and testimonials. It is not a marketing site, its just a place you can educate yourself so you know what to look for.

  2. The cost today should be free since there is no licensed therapy for the diseases/conditions you mention. Beyond CAR-T, Dendreon’s prostate DC vaccine, and a couple others, possibly few more depending upon country. If we are including BMT in the discussion, there are of course trials in MS and other disease. All other ‘stem cell therapies’ would still be under IND, that is investigational or not shown yet to be efficacious. No fee can be charged under law in the US at least.

    • Not true. In the US, a patient’s autologous adipose tissue may be used, which is extracted and then “Minimally Manipulated™” before re-infusion into the patient. Minimal manipulation has meant different things to different people, and that is where much of the debate over legality has taken place. There are those who consider ex vivo expansion using growth agents “minimally manipulated”, and others who consider any ex vivo growth to constitute excessive manipulation. However, to say that all stem cell treatments in the US need be considered an IND is simply not true. Clinics may market autologous MSC therapy for a variety of conditions so long as they are only re-infusing a patient’s own tissue.

      • Sean, in the FDA’s most recent 2 finalized guidances, it said that stromal vascular fraction, the most common form of adipose stem cells being marketed now, is a drug requiring premarket approval. It’s likely that almost any process to retrieve living cells from fat and then concentrating those cells to use as a product will in fact require an IND based on what the FDA has said so far.

        • Thank you for the clarification on the most recent news. I find it a great shame how slow and – frankly – backwards regulators have been in the US towards stem cell therapies. Yes, there are risks, but people are disabled and dying from autoimmune diseases today. Stem cells have proven immunomodulatory capacity that could help, even beyond extreme therapies like HSCT.

          Patients are woefully dissatisfied with the state of progress, and this is causing a general disenfranchisement with the Western allopathic medical establishment. I wish there were a high profile advocate for stem cell therapy in the US, like Elon Musk is an advocate for electric cars. Even CIRM seems to have lost its fighting spirit after being buried in paperwork by the FDA for over a decade. They still fight, but the vigor and drive isn’t there like it once was. Maybe we were too naive.

          • How many stem cells are in each treatment? A friend has had a few. Different price for different amounts. Is there data on how many cells should be administered during each treatment? She’s had IV and push, she’s had 90 million cells at one location and 7 million at another.

            • @Kim,
              This is a great question & one that many clinics are not upfront about. Quite a few clinics don’t do a good job counting the cells and often don’t bother to check if the cells are dead or alive. What patients should be asking is the # of living cells administered and how the clinic tests for that. If the clinic goes “What, living cells?” or says something like “of course they’re all alive” it’s a big red flag. I’m afraid many clinics are selling mostly dead cells.
              As to how many cells is best, the clinics generally have no clue. Almost nobody does because there isn’t much data on that.

            • These are absolutely the questions which need to be addressed with research. These same questions are why, in my belief, there is so much ‘trash’ research out there and also why meta-analysis is worthless in this field at the current time. The studies available are extremely inconsistent in so many ways, that to try to group evaluate them, would be to do everyone involved a grave disservice.

              Age of the patient, # of VIABLE/LIVING cells vs extraneous cells/solution chemistry, preparation, and even injection protocol are highly variable. This is not to mention small sample size, which rarely avails for statistical power enough to make any assertions.

              One of the easiest things to test and one, which in my opinion, is a likely reason for many poor results, is the effect of Iodinated contrast on the effectiveness of PRP and BMAC injections. It is well known that platelet activation and effectiveness is inhibited by iodinated contrast, and yet, most or many joint injections utilize contrast to insure appropriate needle position. I have even seen spinal disc injections where the amount of contrast exceeded the amount of BMAC and/or PRP injectate.

              There are so many issues with what and how things are being done. I don’t think most are dangerous, but I do think that there is a high liklihood that most will not be effective for various simple reasons. # and age of viable cells is another major factor. etc etc etc.

              We need to proceed with the research. We are, but we also need sane guidance, and we do not have that at this point. The FDA needs to provide it, but they need to do it sanely and not simply to find a hole in which to shove the field. It is NOT a drug, although it can be ‘drug-like’. This is a key difference under which a different view of preparation and use must be set as a baseline. There will NEVER be a FDA approved ‘stem cell’ because those ‘stem cells’ will always be individual. HOWEVER, I do believe the FDA can install guidance in how those cells are obtained, processed, and readministered. This change from ‘drug to process’ would allow for much improvement in the field and also bring many of these ‘cowboy clinics’ into line.

      • Sean, my point wasn’t to suggest that all treatments require IND. My point is that there is a lot of misrepresentation out there. Bogus clinics offering the moon to patients with little in the way of options. Sticking with bona fide investigational trials is the way to go. Safety first, then efficacy with randomized, controlled trials. I do this stuff on a daily basis, so I do understand the differences. Thanks for clarifying though and apologies if it sounded like I was suggesting every trial requires IND.. DM

        • Understood. My feeling is that when patients are suffering from severe illnesses, the restrictions on treatments should be relaxed. It is a simple equation: if someone is badly disabled, allow them to try commensurately more radical/cutting edge treatments. I guess what I’m saying is the size and scope of compassionate use should be expanded to actually reflect patients’ needs – not to reduce risk of harm from the treatment. The patients are dying from their diseases now; to be frank, they don’t really care if their treatment has severe side effects.

          Patients are the greatest stakeholders in this equation, yet they have no voice.

  3. Did my knees here in Miami with stem cells from my own fat mixed with the white cells of my own blood two months ago, I feel that they have gotten better but still have pain, the first treatment was $9000 which includes $3000 for your stem cells to be sent to the lab which they will expand and you can use up to 25 times for $1k per dose. My father which is 78 did it thru IV about a month ago and says that he doesn’t feel any different. Going for my 2nd dose tomorrow. I also heard of a bad case where apparently someone was doing a treatment and for whatever reason ended up in intensive care because of it, don’t know the details, did not know that there were any negatives involved except the high cost.

  4. Gosh, I have had Prolotherapy on both of my knees in 2014 and it worked fantastic! Went for several treatments, had to pay cash and it was worth every penny UNTIL I fell on my “good” knee. The DO I am seeing with a group…claims $800 for “Stem Cell” treatment in which he will remove blood/tissue from my hip and put it in my tear at the knee. He said this would be better than PRP and should heal the tear. The firm he is with is identified as one of the Best in my area…so…I will try it!

    • I am 47 years old and recently found out that I have SEVERE arthritis in BOTH of my knees. It causes me a great deal of pain and I do not want to sit and wait to have knee surgery later in life nor do I want to spend thousands of dollars that I cant afford if this isnt going to work. Any suggestions where I got from here? The Ortho I went to said that I have the knees of a 70 year old. GEE THANKS DOC!! 🙁

      • My wife is 46 and has the same problem. Dr says they wont put new knees until she older (when shes too old to actually USE them)
        She was born with her kneecaps an inch too high.
        I understand about not wanting to replace them twice, but damn. Who knows if we’ll even be around in 20 years to have them done!!

      • Krista and Dave,
        I understand your dilemmas! I was told that I, too, needed a knee replacement, a hip replacement and more, but due to spinal cord issues- and the fact that I can’t really move much at all- now, that surgery is too risky because of my skeletal deformities, my husband and I are always looking for new possibilities to help with almost all aspects of improving any quality of life. We purchased what we were told were “ living stem cells,” to be mixed with our blood plasma and injected into my knee, hip and throughout my back. My husband had his low back and neck injected. We were told that these “ living stem cell therapies” would help repair my worn out meniscus and damaged cartilage in my knee as well as heal nerve damage, annular tears and herniated discs in our backs and necks. We also had a senior family member go to receive 2 IVs of this purported “ stem cell therapy” for his ulcerative colitis, diabetes and memory issues. Long story short, after 5-6 months and 3 people and $30,000 later, none of us received any results, except our senior family member who ended up with a severe leg and foot infection requiring an amputation of his toe, a ruptured GI tract requiring emergency surgery and more all about 3 weeks after his second IV. In October 2018, the product that was used with our family was ReCalled by the FDA. The product, Liveyon, turns out does not even contain any viable living stem cells as it is only a 361 FDA Registered Human Cellular Tissue Product, also known as HCTP/s. There are more companies like Liveyon who are selling their dead birth tissue that has been irradiated and doing it by confusing the language and calling it “ stem cell therapy,” without any living stem cells in them and without a FDA Approval, which is required for any living stem cells. Please do not confuse these 361 FDA Registered products with your own bone marrow aspirate or PRP. You may read our story and find more information to protect yourself at our website avoidthestemcellscam.com
        FYI, I have found a surgical alternative that actually helps me and is cost effective! It is called Klaser Laser.

        • Thank You for commenting on this subject I had actually never REALLY heard of this stem cell therapy being used to relieve pain. Somehow I got a notification to invite me to a seminar next week on this subject, however it sounds to me if you are not rich even if this was a miracle procedure to help me with all of my chronic pain problems I would simply be out of luck since you have to pay cash and from what I am gathering my health insurance is not going to cover so unless I am willing to mortgage my home and land that my husband and myself have worked very hard our whole lives to own again I would be out of luck. Well thanks for helping and treating the rich but the everyday average working family left behind…..why would this even surprise me .

  5. This is an example of a poll done by someone that does not understand the subject matter or wants to be intentionally misleading/divisive. The term “Stem cell injections” can and in this case does encompass multiple different procedures.

    The main reason for the large disparity is because you are talking about dozens of different procedures done in a dozen or more different ways. Procuring the stem cells are the most expense part of the procedure. cord blood and similar allogeneic (coming from another person) injections typically cost $10,000 or more because the clinic has to buy that themselves and it usually costs the clinic between $5,000-15,000. Autologous (your own stem cells) are usually cheaper because the clinic has a large cost up front in equipment but can recoup it over several patients.

    A much smaller part of the reason for the cost disparity is that clinics set their price but they will typically remain competitive. I have known people to go out of the country to get it done and spend $30,000. The same procedure may have cost them $2,000-10,000 if they had stayed in the U.S.

    P.S. You are correct about the FDA guidance but it goes against decades of precedence. If they enforced it they would have to do the same for a multitude of procedures across multiple specialties including obstetrics, spine surgery, reconstructive surgery, and plastic surgery. They will have a hard time defending those guidelines in court when they allow in vitro fertilization and similar procedures that have a significantly greater amount of product manipulation.

  6. HI MY WIFE HAS BULBAR PALSY SHE IS PHYSICALLY STRONG IT IS HER SPEECH TAKING SPEECH THERAPY AND ACUPUNCTURE , IS THERE ANY ONE I CAN TALK TO ABOUT STEM CELL TREATMENT I LIVE IN THE NEW YORK

  7. If you are seeking more information about stem cell treatment and how it can help you, google The healing miracle, tons of information. For myself, I had a treatment on my hip. I feel I’ve avoided a hip replacement surgery. Cost 10k. Worth it to me to avoid surgery. I had my knees done. They have improved significantly. 5k per knee. I had an IV procedure, jury is still out. Also 5k. Both my hip and knees were followed 6 weeks after the initial treatment with a prp treatment, included in the cost. Also included were xrays and the initial consult. One possibility of an adverse reaction could be if you are allergic to sulfa. It’s used in some stem cell products. Guessing as a preservative though I don’t know this for sure.

    • Carla,

      I hope that what you received actually contained living viable stem cells, but it sounds like the story given to my family where the product did not actually contain any living stem cells even though it was called “ stem cell therapy” and the MD and the DC both sold it to us stating that the product was viable. The product was called Liveyon and was ReCalled by the FDA in 2018. Find out the name of the product and who makes it as well as if it is a 361 FDA Registered company or if it is a FDA 351 Approved drug.
      Liveyon also contained sulfa and I told the MD & DC that I was allergic to sulfa, but they said that it should not matter because it is only a small percentage used as a preservative. It did matter! My family and I created a website called avoidthestemcellscam.com to help people.

  8. Am Joseph from Kenya and had a 11year old daughter who was diagnosed with sickle cell, so far we don’t have hospitals or clinics who does stem cell therapy, am asking the names of particular clinics and hospitals who does this.

  9. Thank you for forming this web site and the different forums. I’m a AML leukemia survivor with a allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant done July 20, 2016. I remain leukemia free so far which is a good feeling for me. I have chronic GVHD (graft versus host disease) which is common to blood stem cell transplant recipients, Along with slowly developing scleroderma which is of a major concern to me. I am thinking that an infusion of allogeneic mesenchymal stem cells might help resolve the scleroderma and mitigate the cGVHD. It would be interesting to have opinions, comments, and information on anyone’s experience with mesenchymal stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood. There is a business in Hilo HI. that offers an infusion of 20 million allogeneic MSCs for $5500.00 I have read many scientific papers, articles and other information sources. It seems that there are promising indications but no real solid indications. There are 44 clinical trials listed on clinicaltrials.gov with regard to MSCs to treat acute & chronic GVHD, but most require the patient to be refractory to standard treatment, which excludes me. I wonder why the cost is so high, and would like to know what the cost of 20 million umbilical cord derived MSCs would be from the company that supplies the medical practitioners. One company is being used as a source by the Hilo Clinic, the company produces 3 different stem cell products, the name Utahcordbank.com. Hoping to be able to make a decision with confidence with regard to trying the MSCs, all of the papers and articles indicate that there have not been any safety issues. Some of the trials have used up to 100 million MSCs. Thanks to the Admin and everyone that comments here.

  10. I was diagnosed in 2018 with stage 4 lung cancer (non smoker) which they said could not be treated with surgery, chemo or radiation. I was sent home to die. As time went on my cough got worse, the fluid build up was increasing. I had pain in my lower thoracic area. Lack of energy and strength increased. I put my affairs in order. The oncologist put me under palliative care which is the step before hospice. I am still under their watchful eye. Then in January 2019 I came across the idea of stem cells quite by chance, and attended a local talk on stem cells. This led to me having an infusion of cord blood stem cells in February. The results were not immediate but then this is a systemic disease. It is now a month later. My coughing is very minimal. There is no more build up of fluid in the lungs. I have a bit more energy, and no pain in my lower thoracic. I have ‘off’ days when I feel out of sorts. The reason was explained to me by the nurse practitioner of the company as being the result of cell die-off. The cell debris is excreted by the body via the kidneys and liver. They said I could not have a second infusion for 2 months after the first because they didn’t want to overload my liver. This I found to be a genuine reason and I’m so glad they’re being cautious. I have the second one in April. The success rate for a five year survival in lung cancer using standard of care, ie. chemo, surgery, radiation is only 16%. If a patient did nothing at all it was a 4 month survival. I am 5 months over that limit. i am very positive. It’s still early days perhaps but I am convinced that I did the right thing. I had my treatment split into two infusions due to the state of my condition, including my weight. The whole treatment will have cost me $6,000. I could not have considered it if it had been more. The reason they gave for using cord stem cells instead of my own was because of my age and the severity of my condition. M own stem cells are as old as I am and, in my case, may also be damaged. The collection, processing, and treatment protocols are regulated by the FDA, but the overall treatment is still not approved by them. This will eventually happen but a lot of data and regulation have to be agreed and set in place.
    It is interesting that the State of Texas is the first State to have passed a bill (in 2017) to allow chronically and terminal ill patients the right to choose stem cells if they wish. Due to the FDA’s lack of approval, the treatment is not approved by health insurance companies or medicare, so one has to pay out of pocket. Until that happens there will obviously be a wide discrepancy in prices, and even protocols. Pharmaceutical companies will be threatened by this but something has to be done to stem the tide of the cancer and diabetic pandemics. Some cite the lack of a guarantee of a cure as being a relevant argument against stem cell treatment. This is a poor argument when one finds that the standard treatment of cancer (chemo, surgery, radiation) also have no guarantees. No treatment can offer a guarantee.

    • I have been doing research whether I should do stem cell treatment. I have been told after testing that I have neuropathy. Is there any proof that stem cell therapy could help this condition?

    • Dear M. Elson, I too am struggling with the recovery from cancer treatment; an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant which was done at City of Hope in Duarte CA July 20, 2016. I’ve had chronic GVHD ever since, and to this day it is hard to discern if the medicine (Jakafi 10mg 2x day, with prednisone 15mg/10mg cycle every day) is effective. The scleroderma and sclerosis seems to be advancing ever so slowly despite the chosen therapy. I am now also doing, along with the prescribed medicine named above, extracorporeal photopheresis 2x week for a total of 20 weeks. Having treatment in 4 week cycles and 2 weeks off between cycles. I’m coming up on my 3rd cycle of 2x a week for the next 4 weeks. City of Hope has been doing blood stem cell transplants for over 40 years, yet each patient is different and responds differently, the medical world is scrambling to come up with a reliable way to treat acute and chronic GVHD. I am considering going to the clinic in Panama run by Neil Riordan PhD, or in Puerto Villarta at Dream Body Clinic. The clinic in Panama costs $22,000. and in Mexico at Dream Body Clinic it is $8000. I found one clinical trail, a Phase 1 trial at Emory University in Atlanta GA, but I don’t know yet if they will allow me to participate. They are using MSCs harvested from my marrow (which is the donor’s blood system) and I would receive 2 million cells 1x week for 4 weeks. It is hard to understand why this dosage is so low when the clinics I’ve contacted have told me that 200 to 300 million cells of umbilical cord MSCs would be used.
      Could you please post the name of the clinic you used in Texas, was it Neil Riordan ?

  11. I live in Michigan Close to Ohio. Is there anyone In Mi or Ohio that has had stem Cells done to their neck disc for degeneration ? If yes can you recommend a place or tell me places to avoid. Thanks in advance Kim

  12. All of a sudden there are lot of invites to attend lunch and dinner symposium’s on STEM CELL treatments here in the greater Houston, TX area. Has there been a change in the efficacy of such treatments or a recent FDA clearance? The pricing is crazy ridiculos $5k-20k+ depending on the number and type of injections.

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