Lawmaker indicted for selling fake stem cells for COVID & more

A grand jury indicted Missouri state representative and assistant physician Patricia Derges for allegedly selling and injecting patients with fake stem cells.

The injection was reportedly just of amniotic fluid, but Derges allegedly claimed it was a stem cell treatment. NBC News was one of several media outlets that broke the story here after the indictment was unsealed. You can read the indictment itself on the DOJ website.

patricia derges indictment for fake stem cells
Patricia Derges, a lawmaker indicted for alleged use of fake stem cells, including for COVID-19. Screenshot from Fox affiliate video.

Rep allegedly selling fake stem cells

The feds in addition released an accompanying statement on the charges:

“An elected Missouri state representative has been indicted by a federal grand jury for a fraud scheme in which she made false claims about a supposed stem cell treatment marketed through her clinics in southern Missouri, and for illegally providing prescription drugs to clients of those clinics…This investigation began as a result of false or misleading statements made by Derges in April 2020 to a Springfield television station regarding her potential use of stem cells to treat COVID-19. Derges was elected in November 2020 as a Missouri state representative in District 140 (Christian County). Derges, who is not a physician but is licensed as an assistant physician, operates three Ozark Valley Medical Clinic locations in Springfield, Ozark, and Branson, Mo.”

The WaPo also reported on the story. They quoted Derges’ attorney that she has pleaded not guilty and that the indictment consists just of allegations.

The larger problem of fake stem cells

Rep. Derges allegedly marketed amniotic fluid injections as “stem cells” after being told by the supplier, The University of Utah, that the material had no stem cells in it. Patients with a variety of health conditions were injected at a big profit to Derges, according to DOJ.

I wonder at what point The University of Utah became aware Derges was using the material on patients. What is their policy on providing biologics to customers? Do they state that the materials intended for in vitro use only? What is it about Utah more generally and birth-related “stem cell” materials?

Even more broadly, many of the products being marketed and injected by unproven stem cell clinics are not real. For instance, there have been numerous reports of umbilical cord products marketed as “stem cells” that either have no real stem cells in them or even have little-to-no living cells at all of any kind.

Hundreds of clinics may be doing injections of this kind of sketchy material including countless chiropractic practices. See my previous post: Wanted both dead & alive: amniotic stem cell clinics sell zombie cells?

Religion and stem cells

It’s been interesting over the 11+ years of writing here on The Niche and observing the stem cell universe how religion comes into play at times. Of course, one of the biggest connections between religion and stem cells has been the opposition of some folks to the production and use of human embryonic stem cells. However, on the flip side we’ve seen more people selling unproven stem cells including at clinics start to invoke religion or god as though the stem cells they are selling were literally miraculous, in a religious sense. Reportedly Derges used some religious language on Facebook to talk about the stem cells she was marketing:

“All of the components of the God given Amniotic Fluid: Mesenchymal Stem Cells (progenitor cells which are baby stem cells: can become any tissue they want); cytokines, exosomes, chemokines, hyaluronic acid, growth factors and over 800 proteins work together to create a human being: the emphasis on the lungs,” she wrote.”

One of the challenges of tying stem cell marketing to religion is that people will be given false hope about the potential of any given stem cell offering. Some people may be inclined to base their decisions about unproven stem cell-related medical “treatments” based more on faith than doing their homework on the biomedical science too.

COVID-19 marketing

Perhaps the feds went after Derges specifically because she is a lawmaker and has a high profile? Also, I imagine it was because she allegedly marketed it for COVID.

What about all the other clinics across the US still doing the same kind of things alleged in this indictment?

We’ve seen politicians get involved with stem cells before both directly and indirected. Other high profile political figures including Rick Perry and Rudy Giuliani in my view have also hyped “stem cells” for COVID-19. (An interesting side note is that in both cases the firms promoted by Perry and Giuliani got INDs by the FDA for their COVID interventions.)

Stem cell clinic type firms have been doing a lot of promotion related to the pandemic. It’s a real problem.

While actual stem cells or similar cellular preps like MSCs theoretically could help some patients with COVID-19, an idea being tested now in dozens of clinical trials, until more data for rigorous trials comes in, we just don’t know how it’ll pan out.

1 thought on “Lawmaker indicted for selling fake stem cells for COVID & more”

  1. There’s an ever shrinking thin line between the “acceptable” and “unacceptable” use of amniotic fluid and Wharton Jelly cells/ niche environments.

    Is having a University affiliation the mark of “acceptable” use? Having government funding? Having an IRB-approval?

    Where should the line be drawn?

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