Even as some unproven, for-profit stem cell clinics promote themselves aggressively in many ways including now on TV, on the flip side lately we’ve seen more TV journalists covering questionable marketing by the clinics and negative patient outcomes.
Today I saw that CBS This Morning, a national broadcast, had a fairly long TV segment on stem cell clinics. Even though the segment wasn’t perfect, it did a pretty good job overall. It was mostly focused on the case of patient Doris Tyler who alleges she went blind after getting fat stem cells injected into her eyes by a Georgia clinic belonging to Cell Surgical Network. Tyler has filed suit.
She was examined by eye expert Dr. Thomas Albini (pictured in screenshot from the CBS video below), who has reported on a number of patients he has examined who have reported severe adverse side effects after going to clinics or participating in other for-profit experimental stem cell procedures. CBS also mentioned another woman who felt she has had a good outcome from a bone marrow stem cell treatment for vision at an unnamed other institution, but details on that were less clear.
In another example of a critical look at for-profit stem cell commercial clinics on TV, just a few days ago NBC San Diego did an investigational piece (including a very effective hidden camera video segment) on a local stem cell clinic there. The piece was focused on West2North Medical Solutions, which sells amniotic or placental “stem cell” therapies that are not approved by the FDA nor in my opinion backed up by hard science. The firm has clinics in multiple states. The stem cell offering is in part marketed with informational seminars and NBC San Diego attended one seminar presented by chiropractor Michael Van Derschelden:
“The Carlsbad presentation was interspersed with videotaped testimonials from clinic clients who said “it worked” for them. Van Derschelden told the crowd he specializes in regenerative medicine and uses “unadulterated” stem cells taken from placentas from consenting donors. The injections come from “shipments from the same placenta,” improving the quality of the injected materials, Van Derschelden explained.”
In North Dakota, West2North’s stem cell clinic was recently investigated by that state’s Attorney General. As a result, the clinic reached a settlement with the state over patient concerns that involved the firm paying around $20K, some of it to the patients. You can see some of my thoughts on amniotic stem cell offerings in the post I linked to above.
The NBC San Diego piece counters the San Diego clinic’s claims with on-camera statements from stem cell scientist Jeanne Loring of Scripps and Kevin McCormack of CIRM, who both do a great job putting this in helpful context. I share their skepticism.
I expect we’ll see even more coverage of stem cell clinics on TV, but perhaps also more TV advertising by clinics too.