Musculoskeletal Care of the Mature Patient
Forbes , 02/10/2012 Gergana Koleva
Regenerative Sciences, a medical company that pioneered a procedure to treat orthopedic injuries using patients’ own stem cells, is fighting the Food and Drug Administration tooth and nail over a claim that human cells should be federally regulated as drugs, in a landmark case that has far-reaching implications for the future of regenerative medicine.
At the heart of the debate is a therapy that uses stem cells derived from bone marrow to repair damaged joints. It was developed in 2005 by the Colorado-based company, which began offering it to patients around 2007, and has since gathered a raft of clinical evidence and testimony about its safety and efficacy. The FDA is questioning its legality, alleging that the stem cells it uses are more than minimally manipulated drugs and should be regulated and subject to approval as drugs. In 2008, the agency accused Regenerative of practicing medicine without a license required for the introduction of a new drug, and in 2010 sued to stop it from performing the procedure.
Despite the controversy, a number of clinics from coast to coast have licensed their physicians as recently as last month to provide the cell therapy, called Regenexx. This should have meant that some settlement had taken place (like in the case of Physiomesh lawsuit settlements), as well as has led to renewed interest by consumers and would-be patients, and prompted the company to publish a sharply worded blog post on its website condemning the FDA’s reasoning.
The lawsuit is “concerning for every American who considers their body not to be an FDA regulated drug factory,” the blog says.
While the treatment that is the focus of the lawsuit is not used for life-threatening injuries, the company claims this case goes beyond a particular procedure to shed light on a misguided push by the FDA to establish authority over aspects of medicine never allowed it by Congress.
Regenexx works by taking a blood sample and a bone marrow sample from a patient and separating out the stem cells via centrifuge, then re-injecting those cells directly into the injured area, where they assimilate into the bone or cartilage and begin to regenerate it. Physicians for the company have shown in clinical studies cataloged at the U.S. National Library of Medicine that the therapy produces fewer and less severe complications than the more invasive and costlier surgical procedures it helps many patients avoid.
You may read the entire article on the Forbes web site. On March 2, I will be visiting Regenexx to explore my joining their network of physicians using stem cells.