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 Could they have rigorous unpublished data that they’ve run by the FDA that serves as a foundation for what they are doing medically?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.

The Real Stem Cells of Beverly Hills?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and with stem cell clinics and GoogleMaps, maybe it’s true.

When Leigh Turner and I published our stem cell clinic paper in Cell Stem Cell last year, Beverly Hills stood out as a top hot spot for these businesses selling non-FDA approved stem cells.

Beverly Hills Stem Cells

GoogleMaps results from “Stem Cells Beverly Hills” search

See the GoogleMap image from a search today above with the search terms, “Stem cells Beverly Hills”. According to GoogleMaps, just drive down Wilshire Boulevard through Beverly Hills and you could sample many of the stem cell businesses, some of which are just blocks from one another.

It’s like the stem cell direct-to-consumer epicenter of the universe.  

I’m not saying that everything or everyone listed in this map from GoogleMaps is a stem cell clinic, but many are. I recognize almost all of these entities, but I don’t recall Jian N. Ye as a stem cell provider.

There are so many entities on this map that Google couldn’t fit the names of all of them in there. There are also some others off the edge of this particular map but nearby. Continue reading

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.