The Food and Drug Administration is cracking down on “unscrupulous” clinics selling unproven and potentially dangerous treatments involving stem cells.
Hundreds of clinics around the country have started selling stem cell therapies that supposedly use stem cells but have not been approved as safe and effective by the FDA, according to the agency.
“There are a small number of unscrupulous actors who have seized on the clinical promise of regenerative medicine, while exploiting the uncertainty, in order to make deceptive, and sometimes corrupt assurances to patients based on unproven and, in some cases, dangerously dubious products,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement Monday. The FDA has taken action against clinics in California and Florida. The agency sent a warning letter to the US Stem Cell Clinic of Sunrise, Fla., and its chief scientific officer, Kristin Comella, for “marketing stem cell products without FDA approval and significant deviations from current good manufacturing practice requirements.”
The clinic is one of many around the country that claim to use stem cells derived from a person’s own fat to treat a variety of conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and lung and heart diseases, the FDA says. The Florida clinic had been previously linked to several cases of blindness caused by attempts to use fat stem cells to treat macular degeneration. Stem-cell researchers praised the FDA’s actions.
“This is spectacular,” says George Daley, dean of the Harvard Medical School and a leading stem-cell researcher. “This is the right thing to do.”
Daley praised the FDA’s promise to provide clear guidance soon for vetting legitimate stem-cell therapies while cracking down on “snake-oil salesmen” marketing unproven treatments.
Stem-cell research is “a major revolution in medicine. It’s bound to ultimately deliver cures,” Daley says. “But it’s so early in the field,” he adds. “Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous practitioners and clinics that are marketing therapies to patients, often at great expense, that haven’t been proven to work and may be unsafe. “Others agreed “I see this is a major, positive step by the FDA,” says Paul Knoepfler, a professor of cell biology at the University of of California, Davis, who has documented the proliferation of stem-cell clinics. “I’m hoping that this signals a historic shift by the FDA to tackle the big problem of stem-cell clinics selling unapproved and sometimes dangerous stem cell “treatments” that may not be real treatments,” Knoepfler says.
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