Risky Pro-Stem Cell Clinic Bills Still Alive in Texas Legislature

The Texas Legislature is considering three risky bills that would give free rein to stem cell clinics to profit big time off of patients by selling unproven and unapproved “stem cell treatments” that have little if any science behind them. I call one of these bills “Right to Profit” for clinics, which if these became law could get millions from vulnerable patients and potentially block patient rights.Texas Representative Drew Springer

Some of these bills including HB 810 reportedly got a boost from emotional, teary-eyed testimony from Texas Representative Drew Springer (photo from Texas State Directory), who talked about his wife being paralyzed and how stem cells via these bills would help her. From the Dallas News:

“Maybe my wife will walk,” said Springer, whose wife is Lydia paralyzed from the waist down from a diving accident. The next bill on the calendar would affect experimental stem-cell treatments.

“I’ll be damned if we don’t have a chance tonight that would open the doors to science,” he said.

In large numbers, Republicans flanked Springer at the front of the chamber. The GOP rebels relented, letting the stem-cell bill win tentative approval.”

I wish all the best to Springer and his wife. Unfortunately, these bills have little to do with actual stem cell science.

The bills aren’t fully passed by the Texas House yet as they at least must get through another vote and then even if they survive there, they have to get through the Texas Senate, but unfortunately this is a move forward for the bills.

3 Dangerous Texas Bills Would Boost Stem Cell Clinics

Texit stem cells

The Calexit and Texit state secession campaigns for California and Texas to leave the union, which are linked to Russian President Putin, are never going to be successful. However, if some Texas lawmakers and stem cell clinics there have their way, Texas would take a big step away from the rest of us on the stem cell front, endangering patients. Such a development would strongly contrast to all the great, cutting edge stem cell research going on in labs across that state. Somehow this major development has not been covered yet by national or even Texas media.

What’s the scoop?

Three bills are pending at the Texas Capitol that if passed and signed into law would pave the way for unproven, risky stem cell therapies to be sold much more readily to patients by clinics. The Texas stem cell bills include HB 661 and HB 810 by Rep. Tan Parker, and HB 3236 by Kyle Kacal. You can learn more about the bills by following direct links to each bill here, here, and here.

HB 661 seems to be a very loose kind of right to try effort that concerningly would extend it from restricted just to patients with terminal illnesses to also those with chronic conditions that could be just about anything. In a sense, a stem cell clinic’s own doctor perhaps could decide whether their patient/customer has a chronic disease that is eligible. How often would the clinic doctor say “no” since that would mean the patient would not get the treatment and so would not pay them big bucks?

Stem cell cartoon

HB 810 is a stem cell-specific kind of right to try bill that would greatly lower oversight standards and put patients at greater risks. The third bill, HB 3236, is what I call “Right to Profit” for the clinics because if that bill passes then the clinics would have free rein to make millions in profits from vulnerable patients. How would that be a good thing for most Texans? It wouldn’t. In fact, I see it as a consumer ripoff bill.

Other than stem cell clinics, it’s hard imagine many fans of these bills. Most people I have talked to strongly oppose them including top stem cell scientists in Texas. The organization Texans for Cures, which has been very balanced, sensible and supportive of stem cell-based regenerative medicine for many years, strongly opposes these bills too. Here’s a statement from its Chairman David Bales:

“After careful examination of HB 661, HB 810 by Rep. Parker and HB 3236 by Texans for Cures Medical Advisory Committee, which includes leaders like Dr. Doris Taylor and Dr. William Decker, we decided to vigorously oppose all three bills because they jeopardize patient safety and responsible research in the State of Texas”.

There’s broader opposition too. For instance, the largest global stem cell research organization, ISSCR, is opposed to these stem cell bills. You can read more about ISSCR’s viewpoints in a letter from its President Sally Temple to Texas lawmaker Todd Hunter. Here’s a big picture quote from the ISSCR letter:

“…these bills will allow snake oil salesmen to sell unproven and scientifically dubious therapies to desperate patients.”

What businesses exactly would stand to benefit mostly at the expense of patients? Continue reading

Top 20 Stem Cell Predictions for 2017

stem cell crystal ball

Stem cell crystal ball

Each year I make a list of predictions for the stem cell and regenerative medicine field for the coming new year. Later in this post I list my top 20 stem cell predictions for 2017. In looking at my past predictions I realized this will now be my 7th year doing stem cell/regenerative medicine yearly predictions.

You can see below links to these predictions for past years, which sometimes seems rather far removed from today and in other cases strike me as strangely apropos of our times.

What will 2017 bring? Below are my top 20 predictions in no particular order except starting with a few hopeful visions for the coming year.

Continue reading

Rick Perry’s Paid Board Position at Controversial Stem Cell Clinic Celltex

Rick Perry stem cellsIf you rewind the stem cell clock several years, the big news in the stem cell clinic arena was dominated for quite some time by a single stem cell clinic called Celltex in Texas in part because their most famous customer was Governor (at that time) Rick Perry. You can read the many past posts I’ve done on Celltex here.

Today the stem cell clinics are making news more for their sheer numbers (nearly 600 in the U.S. alone), but a few years back Celltex and Perry were stirring things up and getting noticed in large part because they were tangling with the FDA. Celltex and their former partner RNL Bio were cooking up a stem cell product that did not have FDA approval and the agency issued Celltex a warning letter. Perry was a supporter of Celltex.

Now Perry is more than just a supporter or patient of Celltex, he reportedly has a paid position on the stem cell clinic’s board. No longer governor nor running for president, perhaps Perry wants to devote more time to stem cells?

The Celltex of today remains a Texas business, but is selling stem cell treatments only (to my knowledge) administered across the border in Mexico. The change in clinical location was it seems an attempt to get outside the range of authority of the FDA. What will Perry’s actual operational role be? I don’t know. The AP got this quote:

“I’m a big believer in adult stem cells,” Perry told The Associated Press by phone Thursday. “My reputation is important to me and I want to be associated with companies I believe in.”

I actually met and talked with Governor Perry a few years back when Celltex was more on the radar screen and he was still governor. The meeting was down at Scripps in a meeting set up by Jeanne Loring. Several other physicians and scientists were present. He struck me as very excited about stem cells and eager to get businesses to move to Texas.

ABC News has this quote from Celltex on this development:

“Celltex CEO David Eller said in an emailed statement. “Given this passion, it is natural he joined the board of a premier U.S.-based biotechnology company that is known for its unparalleled adult stem cell technology now that he has left public service.”

I’m curious what the future holds for Celltex and every now and then I hear rumors of them potentially doing some treatments in the US or getting an IND from the FDA or something like that.  I did note that at least one of their patients spoke at the recent FDA stem cell meeting.

Anyone heard other news on Celltex?

Rick Perry’s Sticky Stem Cell Problem for 2016

Rick Perry stem cellsI met with Texas Governor Rick Perry, himself a recipient of stem cell transplants, last year to talk stem cells.

He was enthusiastic about stem cells to put it mildly and it was great to talk with him. My impression from meeting with him in person is that he is clearly a very intelligent, energetic, and gifted leader.

But even the best leaders make mistakes and I think stem cells may spell trouble for him in the long run.

Now that he has announced he will not seek reelection in Texas, speculation has ramped up that he is a top contender for the 2016 GOP Presidential Nomination Race.

As with any candidate, Perry has some baggage to deal with for a potential new presidential run.

Perry’s presidential hopeful carry-on bag for the 2016 race has some politically hazardous stem cell history in it that could be trouble.

Right in the heat of the 2012 run, Perry himself received a stem cell treatment via a small Texas biotech called Celltex that has made oversized headlines in part due to having Perry as a customer.

Some folks thought that Perry’s treatment for a back injury, which involved surgery and the stem cells as well as pain meds apparently taken as a result could have torpedoed his 2012 chances. This may have even been responsible for his “oops” moment.

Perry reportedly said of his oops moment:

“I’m glad I had my boots on tonight….I stepped in it out there.”

He stepped in a sticky stem cell mess too that is still on his boots.

Stem cells may very well haunt Perry as he ponders a 2016 run.

It all comes back to that stem cell clinic Celltex.

Perry’s association with Celltex goes beyond the traditional relationship between a patient and the clinic that treated him.

You see, Perry seems to be buddies with the leadership of Cellex including Dr. Stanley Jones and David Eller. Perry was one of Celltex’s biggest boosters and there is little doubt that Perry’s backing helped the clinic. He also pushed for the Texas Medical Board to adopt rules that benefitted Celltex.

Unfortunately, Celltex ran afoul of various federal regulations governing medical treatments,  got audited by the FDA, and ultimately had to stop its clinical practice due an FDA Warning Letter (here). The FDA is still investigating Celltex to this day as far as I know and could produce some ill-timed news for Perry’s presidential hopes.

Adding to the stem cell issues are Celltex’s mysterious stem cell operation now going on in Mexico, which may not reflect well on Perry either. There are more questions than answers about Celltex’s supposed Mexico operation, but the answers will come and they may be trouble for Perry.

In the end, while stem cells were supposed to help Perry’s back injury, he may not be able to get stem cell issues off his back during a possible run for 2016.