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

Kudos to Dr. Oz for stellar stem cell clinic show: time for more action

For me it’s been a wild week of grant and paper writing, grant review, going over data, and more, but finally I had a chance to watch this week’s Dr. Oz show on stem cell clinics in full last night and I give it an A+ grade.

dr-oz-stem-cells

A show producer went undercover with an MS patient to a number of stem cell clinics and let the clinic people’s words do the talking about what’s most important to the clinics: money and not patients’ well-being.

The guests on the show included actor and MS patient Montel Williams and stem cell scientist Dr. Sally Temple, the President of ISSCR. They and Dr. Oz all did great on covering this issue. A special shout-out to Sally Temple for doing the show. Not many leading scientists are willing to put themselves out there to make a difference like that.

The show combined science, medicine, and compelling personal stories together with the undercover videos to expose the stem cell clinic industry for what it actually is: an endeavor almost solely focused on making money taken from vulnerable patients. It’s an industry that collects tens of millions of dollars from patients for experimental offerings that have little-to-no data behind them. No FDA approval.

And there have been bad outcomes ranging from deaths to blindness. Tumors.

If certain stem cells work and are safe for specific medical conditions, you must prove it scientifically and medically, and you have to do that first before you start marketing it. This means putting patients before profits.

Many biotech companies are doing exactly that and there are a host of promising investigational stem cell therapies in various clinical trials. Some will be proven safe and effective, which is so exciting! Others won’t work out. We can’t know the difference in advance of getting the data, but stem cell clinics are pretending they know their stuff works and is safe.

What do I say to patients who believe that the offerings of stem cell clinics do work?

Each of us understandably place great weight on our own individual patient experiences, but the experiences of one, ten, or even many more patients don’t prove things if they aren’t studied carefully with controls and in an unbiased manner. In biomedical science we learn that often, even if we are excited about an idea/hypothesis, once we carefully study our data collected from enough properly controlled experiments and it all gets examined critically by qualified colleagues, we end up being proven wrong. Sometimes we are right. The key thing is you have to let data tell the difference rather than hope or belief.

I appreciated how Dr. Oz issued a call to action at the end for his wide audience to tackle the major problem of stem cell clinics. We all need to work together on this. There’s going to be major positive impact from the show as a starting point to more action that involves the FDA, the FTC, and other governmental agencies such as state attorney generals and medical boards.

Dr. Oz Explosive Exposé on Stem Cell Clinics Airs Tomorrow

American stem cell clinics put thousands of patients at risk each year through hawking expensive, unproven and unapproved medical interventions, and now Dr. Oz is reportedly taking them on in a new show set to air tomorrow. dr-oz

Those running the clinics have affixed the buzz phrase “stem cells” onto a whole range of stuff ranging from A (actual stem cells, but unproven) to Z (zombie cells; aka not really living cells of the stem cell variety.)

While at times in the past the Dr. Oz Show has been criticized for how it discussed unproven health interventions, from what I can tell on the stem cell front now, they are very serious about exposing how risky the stem cell clinic industry has become.

A clip of the Dr. Oz show I was able to see in last week was striking. Another clip above from the show of Montel Williams is quite intense.

I was able to get this quote from Dr. Oz himself about this situation and the show:

“These stem cell clinics are using the potential of legitimate research to take advantage of patients desperate for help. These physicians are violating not only the trust of their patients but also the law and hopefully our show will push the FDA to use its authority to shut them down.”

I’ve set my DVR to record it. If you have any interest at all in stem cells as a patient, scientist, physician, student, grant funder, science writer, FDA person, FTC person, etc., you should check this out.

Dr. Sally Temple, President of ISSCR, is also on the show. I’m told that the stem cell clinic segment will be the second half of the show.

10 finalists for Stem Cell Person of the Year 2016

scpoy-2016-finalistsThe voting on the 20 nominees for Stem Cell Person of the Year finished at midnight last night.

After more than 1,000 votes, we have the top 10 finalists.

These ten are some of the most remarkable people in the world of stem cells today. They have all had great impact, but in very diverse ways.

They run the spectrum from patient advocates to the President of CIRM to a host of top stem cell researchers. Patient advocates Ted Harada and Judy Roberson have the top two spots in terms of votes.

Now I have the tough task of picking just one winner as the Stem Cell Person of the Year. The awardee wins international recognition as the top outside the box thinker and positive impactor of the year and a $2,000 prize. You can read more about all the 20 people who were nominated here.