Sunday, February 22, 2015

Prodigious Pricing and Stem Cell Treatments: Implications for the California Stem Cell Agency

The most widely read item in the last 10 years on the California Stem Cell Report is one that deals with the cost of a possible stem cell treatment.

Newscom image
The piece contains a $512,000 figure and has chalked up 10,714 page views as of this evening. It deals only with a potential treatment in a fully legal and medically acceptable situation. The item is also nearly two years old. The $512,000 number is likely to have been modified by the researchers involved.

Now comes an item by UC Davis stem cell researcher Paul Knoepfler, who has put together a survey of prices of stem cell “treatments” that are being offered around the world. The costs are for procedures available largely outside established medicine with its accompanying government certification and testing.

Knoepfler reported today on his blog that American clinics – non-FDA approved – run about $10,000 per procedure, with more than one treatment usually described as necessary. Outside of the United States, the procedures run up to $100,000.

Knoepfler wrote,
“Whether inside or outside the US, insurance does not cover the costs of these potentially dangerous, unproven treatments.”
He noted that high profits are associated with the procedures. He said,  
“Part of the way that clinics cut corners to boost their profits is by not following FDA regulations, putting patients in danger. Clinics typically do not do pre-clinical studies to get evidence of safety and efficacy before starting to sell their offerings to patients. Clinics also do not include sufficient follow up in the cost of the treatments. They do not publish their data to get peer review and feedback. They often do not have GMP compliant facilities or devices.”
Knoepfler concluded,
“Of course other costs to patients going to dubious clinics, sometimes not considered, include the price of false hope, potential injury due to dangerous stem cell ‘treatments,’ possibly being excluded from a real clinical trial in the future and injury from deferring other arguably more real treatments.”
The high readership on the 2013 cost item on the California Stem Cell Report is likely due to readers who are considering some sort of stem cell procedure.  Knoepfler will also likely see a similar trend.

The strong interest in stem cell costs is something for the California stem cell agency to consider as it invests in clinical trials. Obviously the expense is of considerable concern to those not ensconced within the stem cell community, where the focus is on a euphemism called "reimbursement," shorthand for making a handsome profit.  Stem cell insiders sometimes shrug off the possibility of a severe, negative kickback on prices. 

But it has already happened in other areas of medicine. A physician protest involving the cost of a particular cancer treatment received national attention in 2013. The article about it in the New York Times received 500 reader comments.  

Obviously no stem cell therapies will reach the marketplace if they do not offer the potential for profit. Nonetheless, if one of the California agency's trials is successful but also carries a prodigious pricetag, California taxpayers who have financed the agency are likely to look askance at the agency’s work.
Sphere: Related Content

No comments:

Post a Comment