Dr. Tami Meraglia Gets Sued by Washington Attorney General

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If you’re an avid reader of this blog, you’ve read through the years about many clinics that I consider to be well below the medical standard of care in regenerative medicine. IMHO one of those is a Seattle clinic run by Tami Meraglia. Now the Washington AG has sued this clinic for what will likely be millions of dollars. Let’s dig in.

The Miracle Cure Clinic

Regenerative Medicine has been a game-changer in Orthobiologics. These therapies like Platelet-Rich Plasma and Bone Marrow Concentrate have allowed physicians to help tens to hundreds of thousands of patients avoid more expensive and invasive orthopedic surgery. However, these procedures have a success and failure rate like any other procedure performed in medicine. Meaning not everyone gets better. In fact, as a result of that reality, we have invested millions of dollars trying to find biomarkers or other indicators to help pick good candidates for our therapy and help us avoid treating patients that are less likely to respond or at least giving those patients a realistic assessment of their odds. That also includes investing in tracking outcomes and publishing that data.

However, publishing all of this information that shows a lack of response in some patients and statistical analysis to show who is a poor candidate reduces clinic revenues. In fact, from a business standpoint, it’s just a really bad idea. You’re spending money to make less money. Hence, few clinics that offer regenerative medicine procedures go in this direction. Instead, some focus on treating a panoply of otherwise incurable diseases and only highlight a few successes, often considering anyone who can afford to pay for care a good candidate. I call that the “Miracle Cure” clinic. For example, they have scant clinical data showing that they can successfully use treatments like stem cells to cure problems like ALS, but still offer these therapies to desperate patients.

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Dr. Tami and The Seattle Stem Cell Center

I blogged on Dr. Tami’s Seattle clinic in Jan of 2021 and here’s what I found:

  • A claim of being double Board-Certified when in fact there were no ABMS recognized boards that Dr. Tami had earned
  • The treatment of many different incurable diseases spanning almost a dozen different medical specialties
  • The use of umbilical cord “stem cells” that actually contained no living and functional stem cells per the peer-reviewed medical literature
  • A claim of being able to treat the spine without any expertise in Interventional Spine techniques

Basically, in my opinion, Dr. Tami’s clinic was in that “Miracle Cure” category.

A Random Call from Legal Counsel

I was contacted in the past 6 months on a potential problem with this clinic. I won’t get into details, other than it involved a bad procedure result and I reviewed the patient’s medical records and agreed with one of the existing experts on the case. It had to do with inadequate Interventional Spine training as was mentioned in my blog from early last year. Hence, I knew there were potential issues brewing.

The State of Washington AG’s Press Release

The state of Washinton just issued a press release entitled, “AG Ferguson files lawsuit against US Stemology for peddling unproven, untested stem cell treatments”. Here are some highlights from that release:

  • “Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against Seattle-based US Stemology and its owner, Dr. Tami Meraglia, for deceptively marketing stem cell treatments for COVID-19 and dozens of other serious medical conditions, including asthma, lupus, Parkinson’s, congestive heart failure and multiple sclerosis. There is no reliable clinical evidence stem cell therapy can effectively treat these conditions.”
  • “Ferguson’s lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, asserts US Stemology violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act by deceptively marketing stem cell treatments for serious conditions without scientific evidence. The lawsuit seeks civil penalties and asks the court to order US Stemology and Meraglia to pay full restitution to consumers.”
  • “US Stemology began marketing that it could treat these conditions starting as early as 2018. Meraglia began the stem cell clinic out of the basement of the medispa she owned, which mostly performed aesthetic and cosmetic treatments at the time.”
  • “After the Attorney General’s Office began its investigation, US Stemology stopped taking new stem cell patients in June 2021. Many of the deceptive treatment claims remain listed on its website.”

As I do the math, the state of Washington will be seeking millions of dollars in restitution and fines. Is any of this the least bit surprising based on my 2021 review of the clinic? Nope.

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A Litmus Test for Regulators, Attorneys, and Consumers

If you read this blog regularly, you have some sense of how to identify an actual clinic offering legit orthobiologics versus a “Miracle Cure” clinic. However, here’s a list of questions to ask:

  1. Does the clinic offer to treat many different incurable conditions or just orthopedic issues? For Dr. Tami, it was a panoply of incurable and often life-threatening illnesses.
  2. Is the physician providing the treatment (notice how I don’t include midlevel providers here like PAs and NPs) a specialist in this type of care? For the Seattle Stem Cell Center and Dr. Meraglia, there were just under a dozen medical specialties needed to treat all of these conditions with Dr. Tami having no ABMS board certification in any.
  3. Is clinical data being collected and published either online or in medical journals? Here the answer was a resounding no. The clinic claimed to be collecting data, but that was nowhere to be found on the website.
  4. Does the clinic talk about treatment failures and successes? I could find no mention of treatment failures.
  5. Does the physician carefully qualify patients as good or poor candidates for this procedure based on the data collected? Again, I could find no such discussion.
  6. Do the claims seem too good to be true?
  7. Does the website focus on things like “upgrades”? Meaning the treatment must be determined by the medical condition and what works the best, even if that’s the least expensive thing the clinic offers. That must be supported by publically available clinical data. Take for example Dr. Tami’s still available YouTube video on exosomes where she says, “Many of our patients add exosomes to every treatment to try to supercharge the cells they already have.” Is there any clinical data that Dr. Tami or anyone else has published that adding exosomes derived via ultracentrifugation when added to Bone Marrow or Adipose stem cell treatments will improve clinical outcomes? Nope.

Using this list, you can easily spot a clinic trying to legitimately help patients avoid surgery versus one that’s offering miracle cures.

What’s Still on The Seattle Stem Cell Center Website?

I was surprised to see that YouTube video is still online. IMHO, after getting tagged by the state AG for what could be millions of dollars in restitution and fines, you should be very careful about what’s out there on the Internet. So let’s visit the website of Seattle Stem Cell Center to see what’s there today:

So we’re greeted by a notice that the clinic is no longer accepting patients for stem cell therapy in Seattle, but is accepting “exosome” patients (“ev”)? Deeper in the website we see this:

While Bone Marrow Concentrate can be used in the US for orthopedic purposes, stem cells from your own fat can not be used for any purpose yet. More concerning is the “Total Body Stem Cell Transformation” being advertised which sounds very much, IMHO, like what the AG is suing for, which is stem cells used to treat an incurable disease, which in this case seems to be aging. We also see “Cord Stem Cells”. As you know from reading this blog our published research and that of others clearly show that the umbilical cord treatments Dr. Tami is selling have no living and functional stem cells. You can no longer click on any of these to find out more, so at least that much seems to be disabled.

So what is Dr. Tami doing in her Seattle office?

The States Have Been BUSY

We’ve now seen the states of New York, Iowa, Nebraska, and North Dakota go after clinics that are offering stem cell therapies for incurable diseases and defrauding the public. In addition, I’ve been called as an expert witness in more than a dozen malpractice cases against chiropractic and pain management providers offering fake umbilical cord “stem cell” treatments to patients who were harmed by contaminated samples or poorly done procedures. Hence, the mechanisms outside of the FDA and FTC are beginning to work to weed out clinics that meet the criteria discussed above.

The upshot? At the end of the day, we’re beginning to see “Miracle Cure” clinics being taken out. Add to that the recent clawback by Medicare of hundreds of millions of fraudulent payments made for amniotic and umbilical “stem cell” therapy and it’s been a good few months for consumers.

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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NOTE: 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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