Corona Scammer Awards!

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coronavirus scams

There’s nothing like a good national crisis to bring out the best and worst in people. The same happens with medical companies. So today we’ll highlight some of the worse coronavirus scammers out there. Let’s dig in.

The Genesis of the Scams

The treatment idea here is that COVID-19, in some patients, causes a lethal cytokine storm. So what’s that? Cytokines are chemical messengers between cells. Some of them can cause inflammation or swelling. Hence a cytokine storm means that there are too many of the chemicals which cause inflammation.

This cytokine storm in COVID-19 causes the lungs to fill with fluid. It’s this inflammatory fluid that causes the need for ventilators in the worst patients. Hence, preventing or treating this cytokine storm could save lives.

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MSC Research

There have been a few small studies that show promise that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) could help patients who are in the ICU with coronavirus. One small study was published of 7 patients who were given 50-100 million, culture-expanded MSCs (WHICH ARE NOT AVAILABLE FOR USE IN THE US) (1). The study showed some promising results but used MSCs that were genetically modified to be focused on the receptor the virus attacks. Again, these are NOT available for use in the US!

The Corona Scammers

These are all, in my opinion, companies that are taking advantage of people’s fear right now.

Joy Kong, M.D.

This is what greeted me this morning:

Who’s that? Joy Kong, a psychiatrist is Los Angeles who runs a company called Chara Biologics that has long claimed it’s selling an umbilical cord, mesenchymal stem cell product (MSC). However, our research and that done by the CSU Translational Medicine Institute could never find any living and functional MSCs in her CharaCore product. In addition, her company received a nastygram from the FDA about marketing a product that she claims contains stem cells WITHOUT FDA APPROVAL.

So here Joy is inhaling stem cells to coat her lungs and prevent a cytokine storm? So is any of this real? First, Joy’s “stem cell” product contains no MSCs, so if she’s using her product, then what she’s claiming is false. In addition, there is no product being legally sold in the US right now that has live and functional MSCs, so unless she’s not at home where she should be and is located in another country that allows these products to be sold, this is also a scam. Given that she has multiple other pics of herself on this Instagram feed at home in LA and this one matches, then, in my opinion, this is a scam.

Doug Speil, M.D. and Duncan Ross, Ph.D.

These two are principles in a company called Kimera which grows stem cells in culture and then collects the exosomes produced by the cells for communication. What is an exosome? See my video below:

The fact that we have very little understanding of what exosomes do to actual patients and have few if any clinical trials showing that they help any condition, hasn’t stopped the company from putting up an entire web-site on the use of exosomes in COVID-19:

This combined with many different posts by Donna Spiel on Linkedin about how the company’s principles are promoting the use of exosomes to treat coronavirus earns the company, in my opinion, a corona scammer award. Why? We don’t have a shred of evidence from actual clinical studies that this MSC exosome product will help patients with coronavirus. If the company performs a clinical trial then, then great. However, that complete lack of compelling evidence hasn’t stopped many providers from buying and using this stuff in the worried well. Rather than discouraging that use, the company seems to be embracing it.

Countless Antiaging and Functional Medicine Doctors

There have been a bevy of corona scammers out there who are the usual anti-aging and functional medicine physicians who see a good business opportunity in freaked out patients. In my opinion, this is one example:

dr kelly burkenstock coronavirus

What is the “Corona Bundle”? What you don’t see here is a well-researched position paper on why specific supplements in this bundle could help and why they might do nothing. Hence, it plays off of people’s fears and lack of knowledge and doesn’t allow them to make an informed decision.

The upshot? As my wife said the other day, this crisis will bring out the best and worst in everybody and every company. There’s a reason you don’t see Regenexx offering coronavirus treatments to keep people out of the ICU. We have no data that offerings like that would be real. Until we do, we won’t get involved in this unethical gravy train.


(1) Leng Z et al. Transplantation of ACE2- Mesenchymal Stem Cells Improves the Outcome of Patients with COVID-19 Pneumonia. Aging and Disease.
2020 , 0 (0): 216-228

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This blog post provides general information to help the reader better understand regenerative medicine, musculoskeletal health, and related subjects. All content provided in this blog, website, or any linked materials, including text, graphics, images, patient profiles, outcomes, and information, are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always consult with a professional and certified healthcare provider to discuss if a treatment is right for you.

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7 thoughts on “Corona Scammer Awards!

  1. Joe Cooper

    Do you cooperate with, or recommend any doctor/clinic in Colombia SA, which provides mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) treatment ?

    1. Chris Centeno, MD Post author

      Treatment for what problem?

  2. Sreenivas

    I regularly read your blogs. Just wanted to thank you for all the research you have been productively doing during this lock down and sharing the most important pieces of information and your analysis to the public.

  3. Douglas Kunce

    We all see the death ticker on the news. Scary. Find below the CDC link for death reporting (April) guidance regarding CoVid.

    Key quote:

    ” Ideally, testing for COVID–19 should be conducted, but it is acceptable to report COVID–19 on a death certificate without this confirmation if the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty.”

    I find this stunning.

  4. Edith(Edy) Johnson

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Sam

    What we are facing is a real new virus but a manufactured statistics and a manufactured response that is predominantly serving the political-economy rather than the actual/urgent medical need of patients. This is how statistics are manufactured by CDC 2019-nCoV Real-Time RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel:

    “Positive results are indicative of active infection with 2019-nCoV BUT DO NOT RULE OUT BACTERIAL INFECTION OR CO-INFECTION WITH OTHER VIRUSES. THE AGENT DETECTED MAY NOT BE THE DEFINITE CAUSE OF DISEASE. Laboratories within the United States and its territories are required to report all positive results to the appropriate public health authorities.”

    COVID-19: U.S. at a Glance* (Apr 7, 2020)
    • Total cases: 374,329
    • Total deaths: 12,064
    * Data include both confirmed and PRESUMPTIVE POSITIVE cases of COVID-19 reported to CDC or tested at CDC since January 21, 2020

    This approach is confounding in that we don’t really know how many patients are symptomatic as a result of Covid-19 and how many patients are dying as a result of Covid-19. The other issue to be investigated is what are the sensitivity and positive-predictive-value of the Covid-19 test(s).

  6. Andrew Frederick Wilks

    Shame on those taking advantage of peoples fears! Also, it will be wonderful when this whole COVID 19 nightmare comes to an end and things return to as they once were and conversations get redirected back to the healing of bones and joints once again!

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