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

Clinics can’t retract stem cell treatments gone bad

Stem cell facelift comicYou can stop taking a pill or an injection treatment, but you can’t stop or retract stem cell treatments if there’s a bad side effect.

Unlike other kinds of medicines, once stem cells have been transplanted into patients, if something goes wrong you cannot stop the ‘treatment’. There’s no retraction possible because transplanted stem cells spread in the body and potentially integrate.

One of the striking things in the commercial stem cell arena in 2016 was the emergence of patient lawsuits against stem cell clinics including two proposed class action suits. These patients, and I count potentially now more than a dozen, allege a variety of harms ranging from tumors to blindness. The reason I mention this is that there appears to be huge potential for harm to patients from unapproved stem cell therapies. I know a lot of patients who would wish they could undo what the stem cell clinic did. It’s just not possible.Stem cell cartoon

Even in an appropriately regulated stem cell trial context, there’s no easy way to undo stem cell transplants. There has been talk for years about suicide genes to be inserted into stem cells to provide “a net” should something go awry with stem cell treatments, but it’s not clear how well these would work and stem cell clinics aren’t interested in that anyway.

Continue reading

Guide to September 12-13 FDA Stem Cell Meeting: Top 10 bullet points

The FDA is holding a 2-day stem cell meeting starting tomorrow and it promises to be a really big deal. What’s the scoop on this meeting and the attendees?

Who is likely to say what?

Stem cell cartoon

If the deregulatory proponents get their way, could we have stem cell clinics like Starbucks popping up in even more neighborhoods? I have a satirical cartoon from some time ago I drew imagining such a future.

Continue reading

Family Guy Cartoon Blows it on Stem Cells for Stroke

Do experimental treatments based on stem cells for stroke work and are they safe?

We simply do not know yet. There’s hope for the future, but more data are needed. I’m still hoping to do a post with an update on the science in the next month or so, but have been busy with grants and papers.

The animated show Family Guy weighed in on stem cells when main character Peter Griffin has a stroke that is then shown to be miraculously healed by a stem cell research facility of some kind that sure looks like a stem cell clinic.

Peter Griffin Stem Cells Stroke

In fact, the vague treatment of stem cells for stroke in the cartoon takes only 5 minutes we are told.

The character then asks, “why we aren’t funding this?”

It is possible that the show had good intentions in promoting stem cell research funding. However, the careless and inaccurate way it portrays stem cell treatments in general and in particular for stroke (which remain unproven and with sizable risks) is bad for the stem cell field and could put patients at risk.