Thursday, May 10, 2018

Feds Crack Down on Unregulated 'Stem Cell' Clinics, Including One in California

The Food and Drug Administration has moved to shut down two businesses that offer "stem cell" treatments, including one operation based in California,  following reports that some patients were blinded by treatments.

The lawsuits yesterday were characterized as "historic" by one California stem cell researcher, who has been reporting on unregulated and unproven "stem cell" treatments for several years. 

The firms involved are U.S. Stem Cell in Florida and California Stem Cell Treatment Center and its proprietors, physicians Mark Berman, a cosmetic surgeon, and Elliott Lander, a surgeon and urologist. The California enterprise has locations in Beverly Hills and Rancho Mirage with affiliates in 100 locations around the country.

Michael Hiltzik wrote in the Los Angeles Times,
"The lawsuits are the most aggressive steps yet taken by government regulators against rapidly proliferating stem-cell treatment clinics pitching scientifically unproven therapies to desperate patients, some with terminal illnesses. The lawsuits were filed at the request of the Food and Drug Administration, which last year announced that it would take a stern approach to what it described as the manufacture and use of unlicensed drugs."
Researcher Paul Knoepfler of UC Davis has been raising questions about unregulated and unproven stem cell treatments for a number of years. Writing yesterday on his blog, he called the federal action "historic." He said the suits could mark "a turning point for dealing with the for-profit stem cell clinic problem in the U.S."

Here are links to other stories on the lawsuits, which received national attention: Washington Post, The Associated Press and STAT. The Associated Press was carried by the New York Times and many other outlets online. The Times also carried this story by its own reporters.  Here is a recent column by Hiltzik on the California Stem Cell Treatment Center. The headline on the colum says "Patient lawsuits, federal investigations and a 'virtual' PhD: Inside a would-be stem cell empire." 

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