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.
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:
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 https://doi.org/10.14336/AD.2020.0228