August 5, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

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.

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