Sunday, December 23, 2018

Serious Infections and Fecal Contamination Alleged; Feds Battle Rising Tide of Dubious Stem Cell Clinics

The federal government last week stepped up its efforts to curb dubious stem cell clinics, declaring that 12 persons have been hospitalized for infections as the result of treatments involving a San Diego firm.

Some of the products from the firm have been found to have been contaminated with fecal bacteria . 

The federal action (see here and here) comes after years of ignoring the problem, both by the Food and Drug Administration and state regulators. Meanwhile, the growth of unregulated clinics as multiplied. Current estimates are that as many as 700 or more clinics exist in the United States, compared to at least 570 in 2016. 

California has the biggest share of the clinics, which is not unusual since it is the most populous state in the nation. Legislation backed by the California stem cell agency is expected to be introduced in California next month to step up regulation of dubious clinics.

The federal enforcement action came in the form of a "warning" letter from the FDA and involved a firm called Genetech (no relation to the well-respected biotech firm Genentech, but obviously a name designed to lure unsuspecting patients.)

The FDA said 12 patients have contracted serious infections as the result of injections involving Genetch procedures and products. The Center for Disease Control has reported that some of its unopened products contain E. coli and E. faecalis.

Genetech has not responded to multiple efforts by media to obtain a comment on the federal action.

Some stem cell scientists, most prominently UC Davis researcher Paul Knoepfler, have warned repeatedly for years about the unregulated treatments. In addition to the harm to patients, they have noted that the activities of the dubious clinics damage the reputation of the field in general. (See here, and here and here.

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