Facebook is a great tool for patients to find information and participate in group discussions. However, what happens when a patient discussion is used as a marketing tool? I’d like to explore a stem cell Facebook group that was not what it seemed and how that’s likely tied to a movie funded by an ex-con and a patient referral service. I must say that even I was blown away. Let me explain.
A Stem Cell Facebook Group
The other day I was asked by a patient and a colleague to join a Facebook group on stem cells. I have been part of various patient discussion groups in the past decade and a half I have been using stem cells in orthopedic injuries, so I thought I knew what to expect. This one was very different, or a better way to describe it would be “off”.
The group clearly had patients asking questions as you would expect, but pimping specific clinics isn’t usually allowed in these groups. Here it was rampant. In addition, the quality of the information being provided to patients who were trying to figure out which end was up was awful and not monitored. Meaning it was basically a free for all with only some moderation to get rid of trolls.
I frankly didn’t know what to make of it all, but then something happened that led me down a crazy rabbit hole that explained everything. I had thought, likely similar to many who find this Facebook group, that this stem cell Facebook group was run by patients who were helping patients. Instead, one of the moderators posted a link to a stem cell hotline. I had never heard of this service so I quickly clicked and thus began my wild ride.
In fact, the moment I clicked this link was just like that part of the original Matrix movie where Morpheus offers Neo the blue pill or the red pill. Here I took the red pill to see how far this rabbit hole would go:
Who is Behind The Stem Cell Hotline?
In investigating anything in the stem cell wild west, I always look to see who is behind the website curtain. Once I got to the page, there was a logo in various parts of the site that proclaimed that the service is brought to you by “The Healing Miracle: The Truth About Stem Cells”. What is that? That’s a docuseries sponsored by Brent Dedelitch who was previously the President of Stem Cell Institute of America. Basically, before his time with Physician Business Solutions (PBS) and then SCIA, Brent was convicted of healthcare billing fraud (billing insurance for patients who were never seen). He was later sentenced to three years in prison. Brent’s company funded this Jeff Hayes film. How do I know this?
Brent’s company “Stem Cell Institute of America” took out a full-page ad (below) in a chiropractic magazine advertising this Jeff Hayes documentary and proclaiming at that point that they would be looking for “200 Affiliates” who would be needed to see all the patients generated by the movie. Specifically, the fine print below states: “This docu-series will be viewed by hundreds of thousands of people within the first 60 days of its release…and those patients will be looking for offices near them to receive this amazing service.” Hence SCIA is describing a referral service or provider network.
Now think about this for a second. Why is this ad in a chiropractic magazine? Physicians don’t often read these, so the targets for this referral service are clearly chiropractors. Why? As you’ll see below, PBS specialized in adding nurses and physician assistants to chiro offices to deliver medical care.
The movie had a name change to the “Healing Miracle” and turned out to be a bunch of hyperbole and hype as I have reviewed before. The high points:
- Claiming that the chiropractors shown were stem cell experts, despite having none of the things that define expertise in medicine like publications, book chapters, teaching appointments, etc…
- Claiming that there was research to support that commercially available amniotic and umbilical cord products had living stem cells and could successfully treat a host of diseases when in fact they have no living mesenchymal stem cells and there was no such clinical research
- Showing bait and switch x-rays that purported to show that new cartilage had been grown in the knee through amniotic fluid injection, when in fact only the x-ray angle of the beam had changed
- Featuring other experts like Kristin Comella who claimed to be a Ph.D., but that degree was sourced from a pay for play degree mill in Central America
What Was Stem Cell Institute of America?
SCIA was a loosely knit group of chiropractors offering initially amniotic “stem cells” lead by Dedelitch and his partner. They both are also partners in a company called Physicians Business Solutions. That company would add “service lines” like “stem cells”. In fact, they’re still at it:
This is an ad on their website from this week for an upcoming “Success Summit” in Atlanta. For $149 and in just two days they will turn your chiropractic practice into a “Regenerative Center of Excellence”. Now, of course, a real center of excellence practicing regenerative medicine would need highly trained physicians, loads of experience, research, publications, etc…
Notice what Brent Dedelitch will be speaking on:
Notice that it’s all about selling, sales funnels, referrals. Also, notice that “Facebook” is featured prominently. In addition, of the 14 hours of the weekend conference where you will learn to become a chiropractic center of excellence, only 4 is spent on how to perform these procedures, while 10 hours are spent on selling them and collecting the money.
The End of SCIA
Soon after an expose video appeared on the SCIA, Dedelitch stepped down as president. In the video below was their amniotic stem cell pitch that we now know to be fiction (1-3). The expose video is below:
However, as you can see above, PBS still lives on teaching chiropractors how to sell stem cells to patients.
Who Can You Be Referred To Through this Site?
Getting back to the Stem Cell Hotline, it’s clear that it’s a referral site, just as Dedelitch describes above. However, unlike an insurance panel or even our website where you quickly find a provider near you, this one makes you interact with the sales machinery before ever telling you about the provider who will treat you. There were a handful of names on the front page, so let’s explore the first three:
J.S. Landow, M.D.
We first see a picture of a NY Internist, “J.S. Landow, M.D.”. It also states that he operates “the largest network of autologous stem cell centers in the US”. Huh. I Googled this name because as an actual expert in this field and the first guy on earth to do this work for many common orthopedic procedures, I had never heard of him. All I could find is a deal between US Stem Cell and a company called Advanced Stem Cell Rx (ASC). I then found this analysis of what ASC is and it’s basically a micro-corp owned by one person. It’s well worth a read, as it’s far from the largest stem cell clinic system in the US. Surely Dr. Landow must be a published expert on stem cells? I ran a search at the US Library of Medicine and this is what I found:
So Dr. Landow is not a published stem cell expert. Who is next on the list?
Kristin Comella, Ph.D.
Kristin Comella, PhD. is listed. She oversaw the blinding of several patients by having a nurse inject fat stem cells into their eyes. Her Ph.D. isn’t a real degree from an accredited university but from a diploma mill. Her company, US Stem Cell was just handed a court ruling shutting down the fat stem cell operation. Finally, the company US Stem Cell just cut ties with Comella.
Kent Beams, M.D.
Next up? Kent Beams claims to be the medical director for 100 regenerative medicine clinics and having specialized in regenerative medicine for over 20 years! So is he? I did a google search and did find that he is listed as the “medical director” for many chiropractic and alternative medicine clinics. This just means that they need a physician to list as someone who is supervising the site otherwise they aren’t permitted to perform injections. Who is he really? Let’s dig in.
Again, to be a medical expert in an area like stem cells he must have published medical research. I performed another a US National Library of Medicine search (as I did above for Landow) on Kent Beams. There is nothing listed as published by Beams in this field. I did find this information on a Florida website advertising medical-marijuana:
“Dr. Beams experience includes acute primary care, walk-in and urgent care clinics, vein clinics, and his private anti-aging medical spa. His expertise includes treating men and women with bio-identical hormone pellets, functional medicine for all ages in treating many chronic diseases and deficiencies. He enjoys educating patients on customized dietary changes and exercise recommendations. Additionally, Dr. Beams serves as Medical Director for Stem Cell Institute of America and keeps involved with the most advanced research in regenerative medicine.”
As above, he was also listed as Brent Detelich’s medical director at Stem Cell Institute of America. In fact, a deeper dive into his background shows that his residency training was in pathology. Meaning he was not trained in a field that would give him any insight into stem cell treatments for pain.
I could go on, but you get the gist. The list isn’t a group of stem cell experts.
Is This a Referral Service Making Money by Scheduling Appointments?
It’s important here to distinguish a medical network based on qualifications versus a sales operation. In medicine, patients have become used to the idea that your insurance company has panels of doctors listed by specialty and that these doctors need a certain level of training to be listed. This would be a valid medical license, residency/fellowship training in a specific medical specialty, and then board certification recognized by the ABMS (American Board of Medical Specialties). Hence, if you choose a specialty like pulmonology, all doctors listed have a high level of minimal training and qualifications. However, a new phenomenon in medicine is sites that advertise and book appointments for hire. Here there is no minimum level of expertise like board certification that matches the complaint or medical condition. In fact, the referral service has little incentive to do anything but match a willing buyer with a willing seller.
My Experience in Filling Out the Form
I couldn’t find out anything about a provider in my area. Hence, I filled out the online form for knee arthritis and then got an email which wanted me to fill out a medical history form similar to those at a doctor’s office. I filled that out about my left knee, but this all felt a bit strange as I had not yet had any information about a doctor. Meaning, at this point I’m just dealing with a sales website. Would I see a local physician specialist? A family doctor? A nurse? A physician’s assistant? Chiropractor? Naturopath? I had no idea.
I then got an email from a woman called Theresa Graham who has the title of “Lead Relationship Manager at The Healing Miracle”. I knew that I recalled this same name from somewhere. As soon as I realized who she was I was blown away.
The Facebook Group that Looks Like Patients Helping Patients but is it Really a Healing Miracle Sales Tool?
So now we’ve back full circle at the strange Facebook group. It hit me, that Theresa Graham was also the lead moderator of this Facebook group. So maybe that’s just a fluke? However, all you need to do is to go to another group moderator to see that he is an “Owner at The healing Miracle”. Et tu Brette? Yes, Brett is also involved with the Healing Miracle crew. Meaning this Facebook group (one of the largest and most active stem cell discussion groups on Facebook) is connected with the Healing Miracle sales operation.
I did reach out to Theresa for answers and comments on the following questions:
1. Who owns the stem cell hotline?
2. What is the relationship between the Stem Cells 101 FB group and stem cell hotline and the healing miracle?
3. Has anybody on the FB group revealed that several of the moderators are associated with stem cell hotline and the healing miracle?
4. Is the doctor/chiro/alt health clinic that has referred the lead charged by the lead on stem cell hotline?
5. What are the financial arrangements between stem cell hotline and the providers being recommended?
6. What are the criteria for being on the referral list?
7. Does the healing miracle have any financial relationships with anyone posting on the FB group?
8. Who are the stem cell hotline providers in my area?
Through a short exchange with Theresa I got this statement:
“We decline involvement in the article and request not to be featured at this time. We are revamping the service and may be in touch when we reopen the service.”
Theresa also denied on Facebook messenger that the Miracle of Stem Cells and the Stem Cell Hotline was a referral service. She also wrote:
If you have further questions, please contact THM Publishing.”
I then asked how I could get in touch with THM publishing and this was her response:
Hence, Theresa again linked the www.stemcellhotline.net site to the Stem Cell Docuseries called the Healing Miracle.
We then separately reached out to the Healing Miracle and got an email back stating that Stem Cell Hotline was a referral service.
- We have an ex-con who teaches chiropractic clinics how to sell stem cells who sponsors a movie called “The Healing Miracle”
- That ex-con takes out a full-page ad in a chiropractic magazine proclaiming that the movie’s purpose is to whip up interest in stem cells and describes a referral service that will be used to see all the patients
- We have a popular stem cell Facebook group staffed by people who work for “The Healing Miracle”
- That crew posts links on the Facebook group to a referral service called “The Stem Cell Hotline”
- When you fill out a request to get referred to a provider on that website, you get an email from the same people running the Facebook group
Could A Facebook Group be Done Right?
In my opinion, the idea of a Facebook or another group where patients come to get common questions answered by actual experts is a good one. In fact, patients have been doing this by themselves for at least a decade. One of the first groups out there that’s still run by patients trying hard to curate information is “Stem Cell Pioneers“. This is run in part by patient advocate Barb Hanson.
Could a group like this be run by a clinic group or other organization who treats patients? If that were the case, in my opinion, these controls would be needed:
- Only providers with a minimal level of training would be permitted to post or answer patient questions. I would use the Interventional Orthopedics Foundation training as my minimum standard. Why? Only certain physicians are allowed to take these courses and then there is hundreds of hours of additional training beyond that.
- The moderators would need medical expertise. Meaning if a patient started posting that they received “umbilical cord stem cells” in Cincinnati, then a moderator would need to step in and correct the patient that they received no living cells based on the existing research.
- Clinic pimping wouldn’t be permitted. There’s a fine line between a patient saying that they liked X clinic and a paid clinic promoter. Hence, the moderators would need to keep a close eye on patients relaying their experiences and separate those from a patient who is being compensated in care or money to recommend a clinic.
The upshot? You almost can’t make this stuff up. We have a chiropractor who was convicted of insurance fraud who ends up reinventing himself as a stem cell sales expert. In my opinion, based on what I have reviewed, the movie he funded is now being used to do exactly what he described in a full-page ad in 2017 and what he’s describing today on his website. Namely to fill the sales funnels of a “stem cell” referral service.
(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