October 21, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Who IS this!? Surprising phone survey of stem cell clinics on their COVID-19 pandemic status

iPhone stem cell clinics pandemicIt’s not every day that I call a bunch of stem cell clinics to say “hi”, but yesterday I called some of them during a needed lunch break from grant writing to see what they were doing about their operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The impetus for this survey of a sort was a question someone asked me last week, “Are stem cell clinics still open during the pandemic? They can’t be, right?”

That got me thinking — could these clinics selling injections of unproven stem cells decide for themselves that they are essential and so keep their doors open to try to keep the cash flowing? Would they really do that? There are already concerns even about actual cleared clinical trials on stem cells for COVID-19, but what about the clinics already known for taking risks?

To find out I called a dozen stem cell clinics in total from four states including CA, TX, CO, and FL, and I got an answer from 10 of them.

Of these 10, 6 said they were doing stem cell injections presently and 4 said they weren’t. Of those not currently doing stem cell injections, all said it was because of the pandemic.

I found this surprising as my prediction was that only maybe 3 out of 10 would be still open, but maybe I was naive.

I asked the 6 that are still doing stem cell injections if they were taking extra precautions because of the pandemic, and 5 said “yes”.

These were fairly uniform and included only having one patient in the office at a time so you don’t have multiple patients waiting together in a small space and wiping down the office with disinfectant wipes more than usual. One place also said the entire staff are wearing masks.

If they asked why I was calling, I said I was looking into whether clinics offering stem cells were affected by the pandemic and if there were taking any special precautions if they were still injecting stem cells.

The clinics generally seemed pretty low key on the phone, but one place that I won’t name immediately seemed very suspicious and the woman on the other end of the phone said loudly at one point, “Who IS this!?”

Of the places not currently doing stem cell “treatments”, two said it was because they were not “essential businesses”, while one of the places still doing the stem cell shots said they were open because they were an essential business. I guess “essential” is a relative term?

At those 6 out of 10 clinics still doing stem cell injections, patients are not only having the risks of the unproven stem cells, but also potential COVID-19 exposures. I didn’t ask, but I’d imagine business is way down for the clinics since most people are staying home.

Yes, this was not a rigorous scientific survey, but it does serve as an indicator of the mindset of some stem cell clinics. On the other hand, I have to give some credit to the 4 that stopped doing stem cell shots.

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