Paragon Integrated Medical: The Scams Continue
It’s time again to explore the stem cell wild west. Today’s entry is a clinic in California, but what you’ll see here might as well be any integrative chiropractic clinic offering “stem cells”. I’ll cover two interesting models over the next two blogs on this topic that both miss the mark. Let’s dig in.
Integrated Chiropractic Clinics
The stem cell wild west begins with the idea of chiropractic clinics that have extended care well beyond chiropractic. While there are many other crazy things going on at physician-owned clinics, the persistence of chiropractors employing mid-levels who then inject fake stem cell injections is a huge problem for the field of legitimate regenerative medicine. In addition, oftentimes legitimate doctors are caught up in these scams without even knowing about the nature of the deception or much about what it is they’re being asked to inject.
Today’s Example: Paragon Integrated Medical
Paragon is a chiropractic clinic in Elsinore, California. While it calls itself an integrated medical clinic, a reverse address lookup shows that it’s also known as “Affordable Chiropractic”. This is the Google street view:
Yes, that’s s small chiropractic office in a strip mall which is home to Patrick Connolly, D.C., and says on the door “Just Chiropractic”, except it isn’t only chiropractic as this is the slick website:
I’m always floored by the difference between these slick websites and the actual street view of the clinic. The website describes that the clinic offers stem cell treatment.
Scam “Stem Cells”
Paragon Integrated Medical has a webinar. The first concern is that the webinar isn’t given by a medical professional, but by a salesperson called Naomi Griffith:
Who’s that? A woman with a BA in studio art who likes creating portraits of people and cats. What would she know about stem cells? Not much. How about that gorgeous office behind her? Is that Paragon Integrated Health? Not likley, that strip mall above doesn’t have two stories, so that’s likely a rented space or studio.
Our BA in art explains to us that through the miracle of the amniotic fluid or Wharton’s Jelly product that the clinic uses, they can inject young and healthy stem cells into your arthritic knee joint:
The problem? IMHO this is a scam as multiple studies have shown that none of these Wharton Jelly or amniotic products contain any live and functional mesenchymal stem cells (1-3). There is also another study that should be out in print soon that highlights the results shown in the video below. Meaning that the umbilical cord and amniotic procedures being offered by this clinic or any US clinic do not contain what they claim. Meaning, none of the birth tissue products tested by independent university labs have shown any live and functional mesenchymal stem cells. To learn more, see my video below:
Then you get into regulation. Multiple FDA and FTC letters have been sent to providers using amniotic and umbilical cord products and claiming that these were “stem cells” being used to treat various diseases:
There are many more letters that I haven’t indexed above. In fact, FDA published a whole consumer alert on the topic.
A Scam X-ray
Next up, between the webinar and the ad for the webinar, many x-rays are shown purporting to demonstrate that cartilage was regrown by the fake stem cell procedure being sold here. IMHO that’s a scam. To see how that is carried out, let’s look at one film:
The chiropractic office claims this film shows cartilage regeneration. They point to the right side of the knee joint that seems to show that the joint space has gotten bigger. There are just two little problems. The first is that x-rays don’t show cartilage, so had they been trying to see if the cartilage had regrown we would expect to see an MRI. The second is that the before image was taken with the knee joint shifted to the right (it’s likely unstable and shifts). Also, it was taken at a different angle that was through the joint making it appear that the joint space is bigger. We know this because the knee cap bordered by the two black horizontal lines has shifted downward in the second image. If you want to see how this scam works in more detail, see my video below:
An Orthopedic Hand Surgeon?
An Eric Hofmeister, M.D. is listed on this chiropractic website. His office address on Google is actually listed as an office building in San Diego anywhere from 1-2 hours away (depending on the LA traffic). He’s an orthopedic hand surgeon who is listed at a Naval medical site as well as linked to Synergy Medical Group in San Diego.
I called this physician as a professional courtesy as I couldn’t figure out what a legit hand surgeon would have to do with a chiropractic clinic in a strip mall advertising fake stem cell treatments. He had no idea that the clinic was offering these as stem cell treatments. I sent him via email a copy of this blog and discussed how members of multiple physician organizations had already taken a position on this type of chiropractic practice. Also, that multiple state attorney generals and professional licensing boards were actively engaged in fraud investigations on this topic. He appreciated the heads-up call.
Sending a Nurse Practitioner for Training?
Dr. Hofmeister told me that his office sent a nurse practitioner to a medical training course on stem cells in Denver. Again, I’m sure he didn’t know what this was exactly. The only course that I’m aware of that would permit an NP to be trained and that was held in Denver was a Brimhall course taught by Naturopath Marc Harris that I have already reviewed. I sure hope it wasn’t this course as it contains all sorts of dangerous injection techniques. A reader has since pointed out that an NP at a Denver clinic currently under investigation whose clinic owner was busted in North Dakota by the state attorney general also gives these courses.
The upshot? You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried. Fake stem cells, faked x-ray results, a BA in art giving a medical presentation, and this clinic somehow looped in a legitimate orthopedic surgeon. At what point is it the surgeon’s responsibility to do his or her due diligence on what they are lending a mid-level practitioner to do? At what point is the surgeon responsible for the what is IMHO sales fraud that is happening in clinics that claim to be offering stem cell injections? These are all questions that are likely to be answered by more state attorney general investigations, medical boards, and the medical-legal system.
(1) Berger D, Lyons N, Steinmetz, N. In Vitro Evaluation of Injectable, Placental Tissue-Derived Products for Interventional Orthopedics. Interventional Orthopedics Foundation Annual Meeting. Denver, 2015. https://interventionalorthopedics.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/AmnioProducts-Poster.pdf
(2) Becktell L, Matuska A, Hon S, Delco M, Cole B, Fortier L. Proteomic analysis and cell viability of nine amnion-derived biologics. Orthopedic Research Society Annual Meeting, New Orleans, 2018. https://app.box.com/s/vcx7uw17gupg9ki06i57lno1tbjmzwaf
(3) Panero, A, Hirahara, A., Andersen, W, Rothenberg J, Fierro, F. Are Amniotic Fluid Products Stem Cell Therapies? A Study of Amniotic Fluid Preparations for Mesenchymal Stem Cells With Bone Marrow Comparison. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 2019 47(5), 1230–1235. https://doi.org/10.1177/0363546519829034