Wednesday, May 29, 2013

$70 Million Alpha Stem Cell Clinic Proposal Draws Reader Comment

In addition to the comments filed online in connection with the $70 million proposal to create Alpha Clinics in California for stem cell treatments,  two other readers commented privately in emails. 

One came from a close observer of the stem cell agency who said, “If done right -- and I'm sure you and I agree that is a big 'if' – it could be an outstanding legacy.”

The other comment came from a physician-researcher at a major California institution and was longer and more critical. Here is the text.
“Another boondoggle for some medical schools but made to order for private operators like for profit cancer, dialysis, and laser eye specialty clinics that do one procedure.  I can see each of the medical schools gifted with one as they each were gifted with about 25 million dollars for stem cell institute buildings; and CIRM and (Irv) Weissman's companies like Stem Cells, Inc., getting a piece of the action as well.  Of course the deans and chancellors on the CIRM steering committee will vote for it. How can they not? It's money in their pockets.
“This has the fit and feel of, say, old Latin American Laetrile clinics or offshore clinics offering suspect surgeries or injections for cancers, Parkinson's disease, and the like.  It makes no difference that they are set up in California.  CIRM will pay for an unneeded infrastructure that will be empty space and staff sitting on their hands 99% of the time.  Or worse yet, CIRM will pay but the space will be used for other things, other clinic procedures paid for by insurance.  
“Now (CIRM President Alan) Trounson and CIRM want to get into the medical tourism business making California a 'go-to place' for stem cell treatments.  They want to start with bone marrow injections and transplants, procedures that cancer centers do regularly.  All CIRM needs is a drug or treatment.  It's not like there are tons of drugs out there and the only barrier is the lack of clinical space and capacity.  The start up time for any one drug is very long.
“NIH at various times has tried to organize clinical trials groups with infrastructure, like quick reaction forces, ready to gear up for a new trial at the drop of a hat. They mainly did nothing but suck money, kept staff employed, because there are generally few drugs ready for early human trials and each treatment that is brought along requires a unique contract, ethics reviews, and different facilities, equipment and staff than planned for.  The latest incarnation are CTSAs or CTSIs, clinical and translational science centers funded by the federal NIH that most if not all California medical schools already have.
“The CIRM clinics are going to be generic stem cell clinics advancing California tourism.  Come to California, we will inject stem cells for any illness, in any part of your body, never mind that cancer is different from heart disease is different from bone disease is different from brain disease, no matter.  Next step is for CIRM to form a travel agency with discounted air and Ritz Carlton packages for patients and extended family non-stop from China.  There is likely considerable revenue to be generated here and Trounson, Weissman, and (Robert) Klein (former CIRM chairman) should find a way to benefit. It sounds so wonderful!!  The public will love it.  Now all they need are some treatments.  Love the name: Alpha Clinics, they wouldn't want to start with Beta test clinics when they can go big from the get-go.  What an irresponsible waste.”    
The other comments can be found at the end of the original item or in the column to the right of this item, headed "recent comments."
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