Who decides whether a stem cell therapy is “good” or “bad”, and should that kind of a judgment be more focused on direct patient perspectives such as their stem cell therapy reviews as consumers or based on biomedical science? Both?
I’ve written before about how stem cell patients are increasingly thinking of themselves as consumers and posting stem cell therapy reviews online including on more general consumer review sites such as Yelp. As much as one can find many positive and some negative overall reviews on the web, I wonder how much these mean for stem cell offerings? Also, are stem cells worth the cost (see post here on stem cell therapy costs).
Many of us have come to put some significant weight on overall review averages (think 4.5 stars out of 5 for example) for products or services on sites like Amazon. Even if such reviews can be “gamed” at times to some extent, if there are hundreds of different reviews I figure the mean review score is probably reasonably accurate, right? But what about reviews for something as narrowly focused and health-oriented as stem cell offerings? Below, I’ve taken a look at some of what’s out there in terms of stem cell therapy reviews. Note that I don’t consider star reviews on Facebook to count as a review.
Knees. If you just search on the web for “stem cells knees reviews” in addition to various websites like here on The Niche that are informational and provide opinions, there are some for-profit clinics that pop up with reviews per Google’s top search results. The mean reviews are generally positive (above 4 stars out of 5), but who is doing the reviewing there?
I also wondered: where does that Google star metric come from? It seems to come from something I had never heard of called “Trustpilot”. How good is Trustpilot? It’s really hard to say. There are some news articles from a few years back suggesting the company was struggling with fake reviews, but not sure about now. If you turn the tables on Trustpilot and Google it, it gets mixed star reviews from other websites. The medical literature on stem cells for knees if taken as a review of a sort suggests it’s not ready for prime time and shouldn’t be sold for profit.
Lungs. A search for reviews of places offering stem cells for lung or pulmonary issues didn’t pop up any reviews. Looking directly for reviews of one of the more high-profile clinic firms selling stem cells in this area, the Lung Institute, didn’t find much concrete either in terms of a summary of many reviews from which one could take an average. Just a few individual reviews mostly that were mixed in terms of positive and negative perspectives. I thought maybe I should look on the Better Business Bureau website. There was one complaint I found there. I did a few quick searches more generally for “stem cells” on the Better Business Bureau website in major metro areas across the U.S. and found basically no reviews so not helpful. This could change.
Autism. I’ve been writing about stem cells for autism for years and I’m skeptical of both the for-profit and traditional clinical trials going on. There are no consumer reviews popping up in a basic search here either, even though I know there is huge interest out there from parents and others.
What about stem cell brands?
Regenexx. One of the more prominent stem cell brands is Regenexx, which markets unmodified (minimal manipulation) bone marrow stem cells for a variety of orthopedic conditions (apparently, homologous use). Regenexx in the U.S. appears FDA compliant, but I have some doubts about its efficacy. Also, safety isn’t absolutely crystal clear yet even if it seems generally pretty free from cell-related serious adverse events (e.g. see here). What do consumers seem to think? I don’t know what it means, but Regenexx has a ton of reviews out there and they seem generally very positive (via Trustpilot), where this brand has more than 500 reviews and a good average. Skimming the reviews they don’t jump out at you as fake (e.g. they aren’t repetitive).
Overall, it is going to be hard for consumers to make educated decisions about stem cells based on online stem cell therapy reviews and they also often have a tough time navigating through dense scientific research articles in journals full of jargon. This situation makes it all the more important for stem cell researchers to reach out with thoughtful perspectives.