FDA cautions R3 Stem Cell & 50+ stem cell clinic affiliates

Today the FDA put an Arizona firm called R3 Stem Cell, LLC and its leader Dr. David Greene on notice that what they and 50+ affiliates centers are selling in the way of stem cells were not approved by the agency.

R3 Stem Cell markets perinatal (birth-related) stem cell offerings on its website.

There’s a lot of subtext in the FDA letter and accompanying PR, in my view none of it good for the company or its “centers of excellence.”

The R3 website also includes a number of patient testimonials (see screenshot), but I cannot really tell how much hard biomedical science is behind what they are offering. My prediction would be not much. I just covered another similar supplier, Liveyon, and the wider perinatal stem cell clinic world here a few days ago in a piece that also quoted from an excellent article by Caroline Chen at ProPublica that had included some material on David Greene as well.

R3 seems to be an important part of the problematic perinatal stem cell subsector of the unproven stem cell clinic world.

R3 Stem Cell testimonials
Screenshot of part of an R3 Stem Cell patient testimonial video.

What I would call a “mini-warning” letter came in the form of an untitled letter that was further described in the FDA PR here.

A key passage from the PR:

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has sent an untitled letter to R3 Stem Cell, LLC of Scottsdale, Arizona, and its chief executive officer, David Greene, M.D. The company, through its affiliated centers or clinics throughout the U.S., offers unapproved stem cell products to treat a variety of diseases and conditions, such as Lyme disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, kidney failure and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The products offered by R3 Stem Cell, LLC are not approved by the FDA.

The FDA has notified each of R3 Stem Cell, LLC’s more than 50 affiliate centers or clinics of this action.”

I appreciate the fact that the FDA included the 50+ clinics affiliated with R3 in the notice. This is kind of akin to the FDA Including the full Cell Surgical Network chain of clinics as a defendant in its suit against California Stem Cell Treatment Center.

You can read the actual untitled letter to Dr. Greene here.

The FDA noted that R3 Stem Cell seems to be suggesting that their stem cell products can effectively be used for some extremely serious health conditions that, in my opinion, cannot today confidently be addressed using stem cells including ALS and Parkinson’s Disease.

There is so much false hope being sold more generally.

The FDA further indicated that R3 Stem Cell’s product is likely to be a drug and thus by law it requires premarket approval. In other words, the product almost certainly needs FDA vetting and a cleared IND (and probably R3 needs a BLA) prior to being sold to and used in patients at the clinics.

FDA Acting Commissioner Ned Sharpless, M.D. had some strong words for the stem cell clinic field in this PR as well, which in my view likely reflect strong agency views specifically on R3 Stem Cell itself.

From CBER Director Peter Marks, we also got a nice summary of all the actions taken more broadly by the FDA recently on unproven stem cell clinics and suppliers:

“Over the past year, the FDA has sent 46 manufacturers and health care professionals regulatory correspondence, including today’s untitled letter.  We have also sent warning letters, and we have two court cases pending. We’re committed to taking appropriate steps to address those that jeopardize public health.”

I also like how the FDA gave practical steps that consumers or health care providers can take if they are concerned here:

“Health care professionals and consumers should report any adverse events related to treatments with R3 Stem Cell, LLC products and/or other stem cell treatments to the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program. To file a report, use the MedWatch Online Voluntary Reporting Form. The completed form can be submitted online or via fax to 1-800-FDA-0178. The FDA monitors these reports and takes appropriate action necessary to ensure the safety of medical products in the marketplace.”

This action definitely seems a step above the many “mini-warning letters” that the FDA has sent out in the past, which were never made public. Hopefully, R3 Stem will have to seriously reconsider what they are doing. I don’t know why the FDA sent R3 an untitled letter instead of a warning letter given the nature of the issues mentioned.

More letters of various kinds from the agency to clinics are likely in the works. I hope they don’t wait until next year to take more actual actions as well as many patients are still at risk.

24 thoughts on “FDA cautions R3 Stem Cell & 50+ stem cell clinic affiliates”

  1. I was attacked by a German Shepard in 2010 that smashed all the soft tissue in my right foot and lower leg. I developed CRPS (look it up it’s a very painful pain disorder) the CRPS spread all the way up my leg then to my left foot and leg then up my body and all limbs, 3 years ago it spread to my left side of neck and face, I had an IV 2 days later of stem cells from cord blood and the next day I felt dingling in my feet and legs, the CRPS never spread to my right side of face and neck to this day. The swelling, sensitivity and pain got 25% better and the adnoids I had in my thyroids got smaller and some disappeared. I know for a fact they worked for me and I’m planning on trying them again. It’s up to you to take a chance. I don’t know if they work for everyone but they worked for me.

  2. These people have totally ripped me off. I have given them $12000.00 dollars for various procedures and none of them worked.

    I am still in pain and they just keep giving me excuses of why they won’t honor their guarantee.

    Any idea of where I can go from here?

    1. 1) The FTC can be contacted if you believe there was fraud involved (ie they promised X but never delivered on X).
      2) The FDA can be contacted via several channels to report adverse events or bogus medical products/treatments (https://www.fda.gov/safety/report-problem-fda/consumer-complaint-coordinators)
      3) The local state medical boards may by another avenue to contact. Start with the state the treatment was administered.
      4) You may want to contact your Primary Care Physician, as they may be able to help you report the issue.

  3. Okay, I am back. I explained my issue in my comments above. They are giving me the run around on following up on their guarantee. The woman I have been dealing with said that the guarantee follows the provider (the nurse practitioner) that did the procedure and not with the actual R3 stem cells. Are you kidding me??? They have given me several different excuses and it is now clear that they are not going to honor the guarantee.

    Does anyone have any advice on where I go from here? I at least want my money back. I gave them $12000.00 dollars for different procedures and none of them worked.

  4. I had R3 stem cells in my back about 9 months ago. Felt great for eight months and now am right back to where I was. They said they would do it again if it didn’t work. Not sure now if I should let them. Is this article against stem cells or just R3’s business practice.

    1. @Lor,
      Thanks for sharing your experience.
      I am an advocate for stem cell research and excited about their potential but admittedly I’m a critic of clinics trying to make money off of stem cells that aren’t really proven to work or be safe.
      Other patients have had similar experiences to yours at clinics more generally. Any perceived positive effect usually fades after one or more months, then the clinics say “come back” and of course you have to pay again for another shot and then another. Even if they offer a discount on the 2nd, 3rd, etc. injections, the cost still really adds up for patients.

      1. The first Doctor I went to unbeknownst to me did PRP instead of SC. It didn’t work at all and they did want me to do the same thing again and pay again.

        As far as the Stem cells go, they said they would do it for free. Just not sure if it’s worth the pain.

        Thanks for replying.

          1. When we initially met with the nurse practitioner that does the procedure I specifically asked about what would happen if it didn’t work based on my previous experience with the Doc who did the PRP. She assured me that if it didn’t work the first time that they would fly me to Las Vegas to see “The big guy” and he would do it again on their dime. That is how confident they are.

              1. No. I just looked and there is only one clinic in Las Vegas. I assumed she was referring to Dr. Greene. but that is an assumption on my part.

  5. Writing an article you should check for typos, re-read your work, it might seem more important to the reader. The word should be against not again

  6. Very opinionated article against stem cell therapy. Unfortunately, it does not seem as the author really understands the field of regenerative medicine. I have been following stem cell therapy research for several years. Several studies have shown the benefit of stem cells: from Mayo Clinic’s study that showed that Stem Cells can reduce knee pain, the study that showed stem cells can regenerate cartilage by Park’s et al. (2016. Journal of Stem Cell Translational Medicine), and the study published by University of Miami showing that stem cell therapy can improve quality of life in seniors. This medicine is still experimental and new, but all of these studies show effectiveness and safety and might provide patients with a safer and more simple alternative to surgery. In regards to the FDA, the author forgets that about 20% of all prescription medications are off-label prescription, which means that they are not approved by the FDA to be used for what they are prescribed. One example for that is Gabapentin, which is approved for seizures, but is widely prescribed for nerve pain. If it’s beneficial to the patient and was shown to be safe in research, why not let patients choose for themselves.

    1. You clearly have no idea of how clinical research works. There are only very few studies that “have shown the benefit of stem cells” in terms of statistically significant efficacy compared to placebo or to standard of care, in controlled trials with a measurable physical clinical outcome and a patient cohort with sufficient powering. Most are just observational trials and these do not deliver stats.

      The Park study is not a clinical trial and makes no comparison with any other treatment – and it does not tell you about all of the patients treated but reports only selected findings. It summarizes, “this novel stem cell‐based medicinal product APPEARS to be safe and effective…” That is not proof of anything but a start for doing tougher studies that will generate statistics and show that it really does work. Until then the jury is out.

  7. Dear Paul,

    As the scientist who originally proposed the use of non-matched cord blood cells https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1796850/

    I have to say I am disgusted with what R3 is doing.

    I commend you for exposing this

    I called R3 and was appalled at the level of stupidity, ignorance.

    Thank you for bringing these people to light

    I will call my representatives and put pressure on FDA to act more quickly on shutting down these and others like them

    Thomas E Ichim, Ph.D
    President and CEO
    Batu Biologics

      1. We could if they were actually concerned. They will drag this out legally as long as possible. Add up the number of clinics they have across the US times 20 or so patients each per month at 5 to 10 grand a piece. That’s why Cell Surgical Network is still in full swing. They’ll make tens of millions (at least) before the FDA ever shuts them down – in 2037 or whenever that will be lol. So far, the FDA has zero wins on this front. Liveyon put over a dozen people in the hospital and all they did after that was change labs and rename their product “pure”. Right back into business. Good luck!

        1. The FDA has been bought by the drug companies. They are not going to support and medical treatment good or bad if not sold by pharmaceutical companies. They in no way are trying to keep harm from people. Many have benefited from stem cells.

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