A recent study shows that stem cells are used in treatment promises offered by private companies that fail to inform their clients and patients on the real risks and benefits of their services.
While stem cells celebrate the advance of modern medicine, two researchers discovered 351 businesses that were selling interventions in 570 clinics all over the United States.
The federal regulations strictly forbid companies to market stem cell treatments directly to clients. The most vulnerable type of patients is constituted by those suffering from terminal illnesses.
However, these companies set up websites that contained scientific studies and testimonials coming from patients. Both gave an allure of legitimacy to the business.
Another way of attracting clients was to present the activity as a clinical trial project. The only difference is that patients that enroll in clinical trials are being paid for their participation, while these companies were asking money from patients to be included in their stem cell treatments.
Stem cells have proven to be an extraordinary change to medical practice, as they can be used to repair organs and even parts of the body. It is less known that the research is still in the early stages.
The US has approved only bone marrow transplants and hematopoietic stem cell transplants.
The authors of the study explain that this type of stem cell treatments that are illegally marketed by profit companies rise scientific, ethical and legal concerns. Most treatments are not safe, neither efficient, as researchers do not yet know what is the outcome of these trials.
The marketing of such treatments draws the attention to the risk of exposing vulnerable persons to unnecessary risks. Moreover, the clients do not have the chance to make an informed decision on the treatment, as much of the information provided by these websites proves to be incomplete and misleading.
Many of the companies offered treatments such as autologous interventions, allogeneic products, xenogeneic stem cells and combination products, that are not on the list of FDA-approved practices.
FDA recently published a series of guides related to stem cell products’ use, sale, and distribution. This action is considered to be a first step towards the introduction of more strict regulations related to stem cell interventions.
Aside from protecting patients from scams and false pretenses, the new regulatory actions may also benefit the stem cell treatment research. The separation of legitimate clinic trials from these marketed unreliable services could bring more funding to serious research.
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