Splashy SacBee Ad for Stem Cell Clinic Nervana Raises More Questions

This morning my local paper The Sacramento Bee ran a full-page, super splashy ad for the local stem cell clinic, Nervana.

Remarkably the ad says, “As Seen in The Sacramento Bee”, referring to an article by reporter Claudia Buck that ran in the past in the SacBee Insight section that raised many concerns and questions about Nervana. I may have missed it, but it seems like it has been months since the last Nervana ad in the Bee.

What is going on here? It seems like there are few answers still and more questions now.

Nervana SacBee ad

I’ve written before about how Nervana has had a number of big full-page ads in the Bee. Nervana markets non-FDA approved stem cell offerings for neuropathy and other conditions for which in my opinion as a stem cell scientist there is no solid scientific basis for safety or efficacy.

This new ad takes the cake in this series of ads from the company as it has “Stem Cells” in huge blue font across the top and a very large “Neuropathy” below that in red font. In addition to that dash of splash and the odd mention of the clinic having been discussed in the Sac Bee before, importantly the ad makes medical claims that I see as unproven.

For instance, to my knowledge there is no concrete evidence such as published peer-reviewed articles backing up the ad’s claim of essentially a cure by “getting rid” of neuropathy symptoms. It does qualify that I guess with “may be possible”, but I’m not sure that conditional will sink in for patients. It also makes other medical claims that the treatment is “safe and effective”. Is it objectively known for sure to be those things? Could they have rigorous unpublished data that they’ve run by the FDA that serves as a foundation for what they are doing medically?

Finally the ad has a coupon and says, “over 1,000 patients already served”. If indeed they’ve already done experimental stem cell transplants into that many patients at a cost of say roughly $5,000 each then that is $5 million in money taken from patients. Is that serving the community? Is the SacBee an enabler of guiding patients toward potentially risky, unproven, and expensive medical offerings? Is the FDA still basically sitting out regulating stem cell clinics? What about state regulators in California? Who knows?

I’m going to reach out to Nervana itself again too to try to get more clarity on this situation and their perspectives. The company website still lists Dr. Tushar Goradia as the leader so I’ll try to reach him.

Nervana stem cell clinic: big ads in SacBee & big questions continue

The local stem cell clinic here in Sacramento, Nervana Stem Cell Centers, continues to advertise treatments in The Sacramento Bee and there continue to be big questions about this situation. I’ve blogged about Nervana before and you can see the archived posts here.

Nervana stem cell ad

Nervana must be spending big money on advertising because they have run many full-page ads in the Sac Bee in 2016. Those aren’t cheap. You can see the latest ad above in this morning’s paper.

The focus lately seems to be on marketing stem cells to treat neuropathy. One of the questions I have is whether there is evidence that using stem cells to treat neuropathy and other conditions such as arthritis is safe.

Is there any data showing it is effective?

Are consumers getting their money’s worth? These are expensive experimental treatments and stem cell treatment cost is a big issue in this arena today.

Is this OK with the FDA?

The fine print. As to that last question at least one past ad for this group seemed to suggest FDA compliance. However, in the fine print on today’s ad it says amongst other things, “the use of stem cells is not FDA approved for the treatment of the conditions that we treat and their use is investigational.” Some caution there from the clinic.

The word “investigational” there is also an interesting one as it raises the question again about whether the use of stem cells in this way would constitute the use of an “investigational drug” as the FDA would put it. If the answer is “yes”, then clinics should be getting FDA approval in advance.

It also says in an aspirational tone in the fine print, “However, we do believe in the healing power of stem cells and offer them to you in advance of any potential scientific discoveries that may prove their efficacy.”

Biomedical treatments should be, in my opinion, based on more than belief and should not be sold prior to proof.

Stem cell clinic Nervana new ad claims no side effects & FDA OK

Stem cell clinics are spreading like wild-fire across the U.S.

Nervana ad march 28 A few months back the Sacramento area got a new stem cell clinic selling amniotic stem cell therapies for a variety of ills including most prominently arthritis and pain. This clinic is called Nervana Stem Cell Center.

I first noticed it via a huge ad in our local paper, The SacBee.

More recently, Nervana has advertised again in full-page spreads in the SacBee, but going by a different name: Lee Medical Group.

Yesterday, I saw another one of these ads for Lee Medical Group/Nervana (at left).

The SacBee must be collecting huge amounts of money for these ads, but should they even be running them? In my view, this stem cell clinic is selling unproven stem cell-based hope that could put patients at a variety of risks without published scientific data to back up that it works.

The clinic ads are making specific medical and regulatory claims too that seem dubious to me. For instance, if you look at the image at right of a specific part of the ad it says, “no known side effects”. Nervana ad medical claim Of course any treatment could have side effects and that includes something as simple as aspirin. Stem cell therapies are complicated and can have side effects that are serious.

It’s hard to even find out who the doctors are at this clinic even by calling them, looking at the ads, or going to their website. It seems most likely that the physicians are Drs. Tushar Goradia and Clarence Lee, but I’m not 100% sure. If this is not correct, I hope that Nervana will let me know and fill the community in on what is going on at the clinic in terms of the practitioners there. For instance, I have been trying to find out what experience and training these doctors have with stem cells.

Whoever heard of a medical clinic that won’t tell you who its doctors are?

Nervana Ad close up FDAAlso, I have other questions. Is their amniotic stem cell therapy based on living cells or some extract?

I’m guessing it is the latter, but the ads seem to imply the former. In either case, what is the source of this amniotic material?

Their most recent ad also claims that the FDA is OK with their treatments, but is that right? In part it would depend on that question as to whether they are using living cells, the source of the cells, the question of homologous use (e.g. are amniotic stem cells similar enough to joint tissue to be considered not a drug requiring preapproval from the FDA before use), and much more.

It seems like at this point we have tons of questions about this stem cell clinic in the Northern California area and our community, but few answers.

An important additional question at another level is whether the SacBee should even be running these ads given this context and so many unknowns about this business. I’m trying to ask our local paper about this, but so far haven’t gotten very far.