It was just a matter of time until the magic amniotic stem cell crowd began to be taken down by government officials. Many thought it would be the FDA, but we also thought that at some point the FTC may throw its hat into the ring. That’s exactly what happened this week when the government agency threw the book at one California magic-cure provider with no clinical evidence.
The Magic Amniotic and Cord Blood Crowd
While I’ve blogged on this extensively, it’s amazing to me that medical providers still fall for the ruse that these products have millions of live and functional stem cells. This crowd includes chiropractors, naturopaths, acupuncturists, surgeons, you name it. None have enough day-to-day cell biology experience to understand what testing would be needed to support this claim, so they gladly accept half-baked reports that look official and purport to show that these are stem cell products. See my video below for what would be needed to support this claim:
Medical Evidence and the FTC
The Federal Trade Commission looks at medical websites all the time to see if they are defrauding consumers. The biggest sticky wicket is usually claims made without any evidence. This is a huge problem for the amniotic and umbilical cord stem cell crowd as there is virtually no evidence that this stuff works for any medical condition as sold by current tissue vendors. The sales reps (who are often just as gullible as the providers buying this stuff) love to point to research about actual isolated, culture-expanded, and properly frozen and recovered stem cells from these sources. However, while that’s sparse, the research on the commercially available dead cell junk that 361 tissue vendors are selling doctors is almost nonexistent. Hence, anyone making any claims about these products to consumers on a website is a very easy target for FTC action.
The Recent FTC Action
The FTC moved against a California clinic that was basically claiming that it could make the blind see and cure serious neurologic conditions using amniotic “stem cells.” As you have seen, there was really no proof of live and functional stem cells in what was being injected, so that’s the first fraudulent act. The second and the one easiest for the FTC to act on was no published clinical data supporting any of these claims. The initial FTC judgment was more than 3 million USD, and the clinic settled with the government agency for more than 500K in refunds to patients.
The FTC outlined its thought process in this blog post yesterday. For example, the FTC highlighted this statement from the doctor:
“According to a promotional letter from Dr. Henderson, “Lives are being saved, the blind see, the crippled walk and the patients with heart, lung, kidney and nerve diseases can alter the course of their suffering with a simple therapy [that] lasts for years and impacts their lives NOW!””
The defendants’ ads also made express claims about specific intractable medical conditions:
“Stem Cell Treatments have been shown to improve sight in patients with Macular degeneration.”
“We can make blinded People see again!”
“We can reverse Autism symptoms.”
“Can stem cell therapy help patients with chronic kidney disease? Yes it can. It can make new cells that replace damaged cells and reverse chronic kidney disease symptoms.”
“Cure for Parkinson’s? The only Medical Group worldwide that treats Parkinson’s with amniotic Stem Cells!”
For stroke victims with damaged brain tissue, “Stem Cell treatment acts as a form of medical time machine, reversing the damage that has already been made.”
Claims like these can be found all over the Internet. They’re becoming increasingly common as alternative-health providers get involved in using fake stem cell products. In addition, the claims standards in medicine are much higher than those for chiropractors, naturopaths, and acupuncturists. Hence, they will be low-hanging fruit as the FTC continues to act.
Attorney Generals and Medical Boards Are Also Getting Involved
As I have blogged before, we’ve already seen one chiropractic, magic amnio clinic in North Dakota get shuttered and fined by the state attorney general. I suspect that we’ll see many more of these pop up. In addition, we know of one local chiropractor disciplined by his board for making similar claims.
This FTC action highlights one of the many reasons that we have been publishing research for years at Regenexx. This costs huge money and hundreds of hours per paper. This is a short list of our publications that I prepared just the other day:
The upshot? If the FTC is going after clinics that are making claims without research and none to very, very few clinics are actually publishing research on the protocols they use, then I suspect we’ll see many FTC actions. The lowest-hanging fruit will be the providers treating multiple incurable diseases and making wild claims about dead amniotic and umbilical cord tissue. However, you can also throw many of the clinics making orthopedic claims into this group as well, as few, if any, have done any research on their specific protocol.