After almost a decade blogging about stem cells from just about every angle, it’s interesting to consider trends in the types of questions I get asked such as this much more common one now as compared to 2010: How much is stem cell therapy?
What does a patient pay on average for stem cells in 2019? How much does insurance cover?
Cost is on people’s minds.
In a way that’s not so surprising for a few reasons. First, as compared to many years back, people now view stem cell injections as a more everyday thing. Stem cell therapy is often available just down the street at a local strip mall. Back in 2010 and in the 5 or so years after that, people more viewed stem cells as some amazing thing out of reach at that time.
Sadly, a major part of the reason for the change is the tidal wave of stem cell clinics from coast to coast in the US selling unproven offerings.
At the same time, some universities and large medical centers also sell stem cell offerings that aren’t proven. I’m worried that number may be increasing too and patients may be paying there at the very high end, sometimes above $100K.
Other stem cell suppliers and clinics market stem cell-related “stuff” that isn’t real stem cells such as platelet rich plasma or PRP or injections of often “dead” perinatal stem cell products. The cost of PRP is typically half or even much less than that of a stem cell injection.
For all these reasons about once every year or two, I do polling asking the readers of The Niche here about their experiences.
How much did you pay per injection? How many injections did you get? Where did you get them?
The 2019 polling can be found here, but some of the key results are captured in a combo screenshot I’ve included here.
Keep in mind that the total cost of stem cell “therapy” is the product of the cost/injection times the # of injections.
What you can see is that a plurality of respondents reported getting one stem cell injection, but 60% of people nonetheless got more than one stem cell injection. Remarkably about 1 in 20-25 people received more than 20 stem cell injections.
About another 1 in 20 people got 6-20 injections. I find this amount of repeat injections to be surprising and concerning as it amplifies health and financial risks.
In terms of cost per injection, the results are pretty similar to 2018 (see at right below) on the whole. This kind of polling isn’t super scientific, but can gauge trends. Unfortunately, I haven’t really seen much other published data on stem cell clinic costs.
I don’t know if it’s noise or not, but the % of people paying over $100K is about 2-fold higher in 2019. More people may be paying $10K-$20K as well now.
On the economic side, you might think that the feds like the FTC would be active related to false or even fraudulent marketing of stem cells via the web and other kinds of advertising, but in total so far the FTC to my knowledge has only taken one action. It’s odd that there was just that one blip considering the sea of questionable stem cell clinic-related ads out there everywhere from major newspapers to inflight magazines to mobile ads on a stem-cell-mobile to television. Then of course there are the infomercial seminars.
Patients are often reaching out to me so I know that many of them have gone to extraordinary measures to raise the money to pay unproven stem cell clinics so it’s painful to think about what little they get in return. Since we are by definition talking about unproven medical procedures here, in my view this money is largely down the drain.
If you have other data on stem cell economic issues such as what patients pay please let me know. Then there’s the issue of what it actually costs the clinics per injection and in turn: what’s their profit margin?