The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) took some strong action against specific stem cell clinics today and the physician behind them. I see this as really good news and it’s something I’ve been pushing for years. The clinics in question in part marketed unproven stem cells for sick kids. Frankly, iffy for-profit stem cell “treatments” for kids is something that especially pisses me off as it’s even riskier and inherently raises more ethical issues.
In the announcement today, the FTC described a settlement and outlined specific problematic marketing by Dr. Bryn Jarald Henderson, D.O. (pictured) as well as by his clinics, Regenerative Medical Group and Telehealth Medical Group. Interestingly, I believe it was a “stem cells for autism” ad including Dr. Henderson that I noted had annoyingly popped up while I was reading a Scientific American article on stem cell clinics in 2016.
From the feds announcement:
“A California-based physician and the two companies he controls have settled charges of deceptively advertising that “amniotic stem cell therapy” can treat serious diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, autism, macular degeneration, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and heart attacks.
The settlement prohibits the defendants from making these and other health claims in the future unless the claims are true and supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. The settlement also imposes a partially suspended $3.31 million judgment and requires the defendants to notify current and former patients about the order within 30 days.”
This is a big deal.
I’m wondering about the future of these and other related businesses. By the way as a stem cell biologist, I’m not aware of any good evidence for the claims that “amniotic stem cell therapy” (whatever that happens to actually be at a particular clinic) can help the conditions mentioned in that quote as being marketed.
The FTC complaint (see court filing here) gives some insights into the stem cell treatment costs and profits by the clinic, which:
“earned at least $3.31 million offering stem cell therapy between 2014 and 2017. Initial stem cell therapy injections ranged from $9,500 to $15,000, with patients encouraged to undergo multiple treatments. Follow-up “booster” treatments cost between $5,000 and $8,000 each.”
This fits fairly well with our information here on The Niche on stem cell costs.
Amongst the more striking claims made, check this one out,
“the defendants even claimed that the therapy could restore the vision of blind patients, citing the case of a “101 year old Lady once blind for 7 years” who, thanks to stem cell therapy, could see again. The website’s homepage boasted that the therapy could “reverse autism symptoms.”
More FTC action coming? Probably.
There are hundreds of clinics out there with a sizable subset of those making questionable and in some cases even outrageous medical claims.