Consumer Reports: New, unproven stem cell treatment danger

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It is true. There are risks with stem cell treatments. Mostly concerns of infection from a tainted product received from biotech companies or offices poorly prepared or simply irresponsible when it comes to sterile technique.

When dealing with stem cell clinics who utilize the patients own cells, the risks go down. There’s no chance of rejection, as these are your cells and not mixed with any other individuals cells. However, even in the best of circumstances infection is still a risk. How many people have you met who had a total knee or hip replacement that got infected? Happen’s all the time, right? It’s real problem even in hospital settings.

As a group we have decided to use protocols developed by the Cell Surgical Network. These protocols for studying cell therapy have been submitted to the FDA as an IRB (Institutional Review Board). This is not the same as an IND (Investigational New Drug). Any organization wanting to study a new drug or cell therapy as we are, has to go through the steps for approval. An IRB is simply a much less costly way of collecting data on our procedures for the FDA to see with transparency. They are then able to see what we are doing and what results we are seeing in our population of patients undergoing these treatments. Therefore an IRB is a more likely scenario for smaller organizations like ours that do not have millions if not billions in its coffers to dispose of readily on clinical trials. Sadly, the costs associated to approve a new drug such as the case with an IND, precludes many wonderful and successful therapies to ever see the light of day.

Be Aware: There are many offices throughout the US that are pushing stem cell therapy. Just do a google search for stem cell treatments and you’ll get inundated with advertisements from physician, chiropractic, naturopathic and oriental medicine clinics located all across the globe. Why? Well… first of all because it is effective with very low risk of side effects or injury. Who wouldn’t rather regenerate their own tissues in the body then try to replace or repair them with techniques and parts that often fail, get infected, require down time, don’t work right, still hurt and very, very expensive. The average knee replacement in the US is $57,000. The average stem cell injection is $10,000. It just makes sense every way you look at it.

In this Consumer Report article they expand on these concerns of unproven stem cell injections and the potential risks. The E coli outbreak was because of an infected lot associated with donated umbilical cord tissues. Again, this is a quality control issue with the biotech company that produced this product, not the individual offices that were using the tainted product.

As with any new product, buyer be ware. Do your homework. Investigate. Ask questions. Get references. Ultimately, you need to get to a point where you feel 100% comfortable with the group you’re working with.

-Dr Bean