Sunday, February 20, 2005

Stem Cells for Every Ailment

Although we hear a lot about the rising costs and stagnant quality of health care, the health care policy literature is nearly silent about the role of quackery in increasing costs and causing bad outcomes for patients. The Los Angeles Times has a poignant report about one particular health care fraud, and its effects on the desparate patients who turned to it.
This fraud capitalized (literally) on the rising interest in stem cells. A company called BioMark Inernational, originally located in Florida, and prominently located on the web, touted stem cell infusions for a variety of illnesses, including amyotropic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The LA Times story focusses on one ALS sufferer who got two stem cell treatments, convinced that it was his only hope. After spending a lot of money, and after his preoccupation with finding a miraculous cure drove a wedge between him and his family, he died less than a year after his first treatment.
The article documented how BioMark was founded by Laura Brown, a former fashion model, and Steve van Rooyen. Neither had any biomedically related training. BioMark's advisory board included reputable physicians and scientists who never agreed to serve on it. BioMark started its operations in the US, but after the Food and Drug Administation (FDA) raided its offices, it transferred its site for stem cell injections to Canada, then to Mexico, and set up offices in London. Patients from the US, and probably other countries, are still journeying to Mexico and paying $10,000 for stem-cell injections. The elaborate BioMark web-site is still operational here. It still claims: "They [stem cells] have been documented as effective treatment for most all degenerative conditions as well as injuries. This is due to their capacity to regenerate the blood system, as well as every single organ, tissue and cell system in the human body. " And it still claims that stem-cells can treat a broad variety of illnesses, including ALS.
A stronger and more international effort to shut down quackery like this would more than repay the initial investment, not only by saving money spent on such worthless treatments, but also, and more importantly, by preventing the the shattered hopes that are the human costs of quackery.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

My mother has undergone stem cell therapy for Hepatitis C with cirrhosis which has been reversed with stem cell treatment. I dont think it fair for you to pass of this treatment as a fraud just because one patient died in the natrual course of his disease.

A lot depends on the stage of the disease. SHAME ON YOU

Anonymous said...

There are hundreds of people who have been helped in various ways for various diseases by reputable doctors with licenses to treat such diseases with umbilical cord blood stem cells. Many doctors like Mario Ramirez and Frank Morales in Mexico have documented clinical evidence of their successes. Such things should be pointed out to the public. There is hope with stem cells.

Anonymous said...

DR.Mario Ramirez was doing shark stem cell therapy years ago charged $1600. a shot and you needed to have at least 12 shots for it to work also recomended we get hbo after shots, turns out these hbo treatments killed shot stemcells I guess he has graduated to a bigger money maker!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

FORGOT TO ADD THIS TO PREVIOUS COMMENT SHAME ON DRS. kicking us when we are down and desperate

perrybridge said...

Well, my aunt did not use this "Quack" but did receive Stem Cells in Mexico.
90 days ago my aunt arrived in mexico. She was Jaundice(yellow skin) and short of breath. Her diagnosis in USA was pancreatic cancer with metastisis to liver also encrusting her aorta. Primary tumor was the size of a large Grapefruit. $2,000 per injection in usa did not help. Neither did chemo.
90 days later, ct scans clean. Blood markers for pancreatic cancer (ca 19-9) remains now at 5.6 -10 or less is concidered to be normal (no Cancer), Oh did I forget to mention skin color is normal. Shortness of Breath gone. She now takes long walks and has completly gone off occycotin and Morphine injections ! Mabe theses "quacks" are on to something. It is immoral to only treat with American Medical Association (USA) treatment as the only option. The proof is in the Pudding!

Roy M. Poses MD said...

Maybe stem cells work in some instances. Maybe a few people have had spontaneous remissions unrelated to but after getting stem cells. Maybe some people got stem cells for a condition they never had (that is, after a misdiagnosis). Maybe the anecdotal accounts above are fake. (Note that the anecdotes above come from either people who are completely anonymous, or whose identity cannot be verified.)

We won't have any idea whether this therapy works until it is subject to rigorous controlled clinical trials, and the results are published in a transparent manner.