Both nationally and in California, the number of unregulated clinics has risen sharply with estimates of more than 1,000 nationwide, with the largest number in California.
Jonathan Thomas, chairman of the $3 billion state stem cell agency, has described the fast-growing clinics as snake-oil enterprises.
The clinics peddle what they call stem cell treatments to desperate patients. The treatments cost thousands of dollars. Some patients have reported losing their vision as a result. Last December, the federal government reported that 12 persons were hospitalized because of infections from treatment by a California clinic. Some of the material involved was contaminated with fecal bacteria.
The New York Times reported this week that across the nation the clinics have "attracted huge numbers of patients, who pay thousands of dollars for unproven, risky procedures." The Times piece echoed a bleak national picture that was painted earlier by the Washington Post.
The next board meeting comes in August. The task force consists of two members of the state board:
|Randy Hawkins, LA Sentinel photo|
|Howard Krauss, PNI photo|
Art Torres, vice chairman of the board of the California stem cell agency, has been working on the measure (AB617). He served for 22 years in the state legislature and is a former head of the California Democratic Party.
Last month, Torres described the stem cell clinic measure as "dead." He said the reasons for its demise are "unclear," along with the failure of another bill dealing with sickle cell disease. Torres told the board,
"They haven't told us why they opposed it, and even the author of the bills can't figure out why their bills remained in what's called the suspense file of the Assembly Appropriations Committee."
Torres later told the California Stem Cell Report that it was possible that the content of the bill could be amended into another measure that is farther along in the legislative process. But he said that no clear pathway to final passage was evident.
In New York, the state attorney general has charged one stem cell clinic with fraud. In California, Attorney General Xavier Becerra has remained mum on the subject.