Stem $ell$: clinic marketeers dangle big bucks to docs

stem sells marketingOver the last couple of years the marketing of unproven clinic injections of non-FDA-approved stem cells seems in open-throttle mode.

What used to just be on the web here and there is now on billboards, newspapers, flyers, infomercials, and on TV. It’s possible that millions of dollars are being spent yearly on advertising this stuff, which means far more than that huge amount is being taken in as revenue by clinics and their associated businesses such as marketing firms.

But there’s a different and growing level to this advertising in the form of heavy marketing directly to physicians and chiropractors. Suppliers of unproven “stem cell” products are dangling big dollar signs (literally in some cases) in front of those providers who have practices full of patients who might become customers. The main gist here seems to me to be, “Doctor, you can make a ton of money selling our stem cell product to your patients.”

It’s concerning to me, for instance, to see the aggressive marketing of birth-related or perinatal stem cell products that not only may have questionable if any efficacy but also sometimes can pose serious risks to patients. This is not just hypothetical. In the past year or so, according to the FDA twelve people ended up in the hospital due to contamination of a purported umbilical cord stem cell product with bacteria.

You can see an image above of a postcard with the slogan “Stem $ell$” that a physician recently received. It really doesn’t pull any punches about what the goal is for the target audience of clinic physicians. Money.

I would ask those conducting this kind of “stem sells” marketing more generally, “Does it help the patient?” In my view the answer is “no” and at least to me it seems that helping patients is not the top priority. I hope physicians who are subject to this marketing are also asking themselves if the product is good for the patient.

Note that years ago I had invented a funny stem cell journal called “Stem Sells” in this satirical piece because even back then I thought there was too much marketing of this kind, but today that stem cell clinic related marketing has become far more assertive and ubiquitous.

7 thoughts on “Stem $ell$: clinic marketeers dangle big bucks to docs”

  1. There appears to be differing views about the future and use of stem cells to treat health issues. Your comments and similar comments seem to indicate that you want the FDA to oversee developments in this field. The FDA however is not mandated to regulate your own stem cells the way they regulate the development, patenting and sale of various drugs that big pharma create. If big pharma have their way, they will take control of stem cell therapy and simply use the technology to further enrich their companies. If I chose to have my own stem cells harvested and injected into my knee joint, that is my business and not the business of the FDA and big pharma. What is your comment on this?

  2. Jeanne F Loring

    Ummm, teaching what? It looks like they are charging people to tell them how to make money by ignoring FDA oversight.

    1. This is an age old issue – who is responsible for damage done by the recipient of a teaching? You can be arrested for terrorism but not for putting the bomb making process on YouTube (or even in a patent). Your concern is purely ethical – I was only referring to the legal status as this blog post is about marketing.

    1. Looks like a teaching platform – they are not offering treatments to patients here. Nothing wrong with this.

  3. Any new ideas? We’re on the web, in the newspapers, on TV, on NPR, on Twitter, giving talks at Rotary clubs…We should think on what will make this information stick. Paul, how can we make you more famous?

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