Friday, March 17, 2017

A "Blind" Warning to Patients: Beware Unproven, Unregulated Stem Cell Treatments

“Disastrous” is how the New York Times this week described an ostensible stem cell treatment in Florida that left three older women blind or nearly blind. "Chilling reading" said the $3 billion California stem cell agency.

If you haven’t read about the matter yet, it is worth some attention. Denise Grady of the New York Times wrote,
“The cases expose gaps in the ability of government health agencies to protect consumers from unproven treatments offered by entrepreneurs who promote the supposed healing power of stem cells.”
Her article was based on a report in the New England Journal of Medicine that dug into the medicial and scientific details.

The matter involves loosely or non-regulated stem cell treatments in clinics that have shot up around the country, Paul Knoepfler, a stem cell research at UC Davis, and Leigh Turner, a bioethicist at the University of Minnesota, reported last year that at least 570 exist around in the country, with the most in California.

Kevin McCormack, director of communications at California's stem cell agency, wrote about the Florida matter on the agency's blog, He said,
"The report makes for chilling reading."
McCormack said it is a "warning to all patients about the dangers of getting unproven, unapproved stem cell therapies."

Knoepfler wrote on his blog,
“Is this just the tip of the iceberg for negative stem cell clinic outcomes given that there are around 600 such clinics in the US today largely operating generally without FDA approvals, lacking preclinical data to support what they are doing, and experimenting on thousands of patients for profit? 
“Where was the FDA in all of this and are they doing anything about it now?”
Knoepfler continued,
“The clinicaltrials.gov website remains a great, but also very problematic resource. Many patients seem to view anything listed on there as a legitimate, NIH-approved full-blown clinical trial and some clinics encourage that view, but that’s clearly not the case. I interviewed the leader of clinicaltrials.gov in 2014 and problems were already apparent to me back then from that discussion. Clinicaltrials.gov needs to provide patients with much more information (e.g. IND status, fee as inclusion criteria, etc.) and consider excluding certain listings.”While it is quite possible that it lacks the budget, the flexibility, and/or the authority to make such changes quickly, a lot is at stake. They need to make changes ASAP.”
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