Battle over Texas stem cell legislation flares as it nears end

Will Texas go it alone by giving stem cell clinics free rein or will it break new ground by passing laws that promote reasonable stem cell clinical practices with safeguards? Some middle ground?

It’s a dramatic moment for the stem cell field as legislation under consideration in Texas could have big impact on stem cell businesses and patients in that state as well as on the stem cell field overall. As soon as tomorrow we may know what direction the state goes with the stem cell legislation. One possibility is that disagreements amongst lawmakers about issues such as assurances of patient protections, data collection, and oversight could end up meaning no legislation comes through in the end.Texit stem cells

As I blogged before here, the battle began in the Texas House. There three bills ultimately got approved, after a sometimes emotional and dramatic session, which if enacted into law would be plums to stem cell clinics by saying that clinics could experiment on patients with little data to back up what they were doing and yet charge patients an arm and a leg for doing so…and patients would even been restricted in their rights including to sue.

That doesn’t seem right. But understandably some patients have been advocates for these bills as there are many patients are looking for hope and some want less oversight, but in reality these House bills would be harmful to patients and the stem cell field. Who else is behind these bills? You can bet that stem cell clinic businesses (possibly including Celltex?) have pumped big money into the Texas Legislature to try to get the desired laws.

Through efforts of many parties led by Texans for Cures including its Chairman David Bales working with Texas Senators, the Senate versions of these bills have evolved and come to include a number of responsible provisions that would provide balance and patient protections including not allowing for charging for risky experimental offerings. They’ve done really good work. I still find myself at the moment unsure of whether on balance I would feel 100% comfortable supporting these bills entirely and would have to see how the language ends up if something is passed in the end. Still they are dramatically better than what the Texas House passed and contain good common sense provisions so a toast to Texans for Cures.

When a House and Senate in a state or at the federal level pass different versions of bills, they must have a conference and hammer out the final legislation. Now in Texas at this stage there’s conflict between the House and Senate over how to resolve the differences. The House apparently wants the bills to more simply green light stem cell clinics to do what the heck they want and profit big time off of patients from their high-risk experiments.

And there’s just hours left to vote.

How will it all turn out?

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