Thanks to a lack of FDA regulation, medically unproven stem cell therapies have become a $2B business, according to a recent ProPublica report.
Some stem cell treatments, like bone marrow transplants, are medically legitimate.
But other misguided “miracle cures,” which simply exploit sick patients, are on the rise: The number of clinics offering unproven stem cell therapies grew from 12 in 2009 to more than 700 in 2017.
Birth tissue bullsh*tters
Like most medical myths, stem cell fiction resembles stem cell fact.
The real science: In babies, amniotic stem cells develop into a variety of types of tissue (proven). The pseudoscience: In adults, amniotic stem cells repair multiple types of tissue (NOT proven).
But despite a lack of clinical evidence, birth tissue-based stem cell clinics claim amniotic cells can treat arthritis, wrinkles, hair loss, erectile dysfunction, asthma, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and heart failure.
One company that distributes to 30 clinics across the country, R3 Stem Cell, was founded by a former orthopedic surgeon whose medical license was revoked after 14 malpractice lawsuits.
Birth tissue suppliers like R3 obtain their tissue for free (mothers can donate placentas but, by law, may not be compensated for doing so).
Then, the clinics charge pain-ridden patients between $5k-$10k for 10-minute therapy sessions.
R3 uses manipulative marketing strategies (“rejuvenate your sex life”) and duplicitous discounts (marking treatments down from $5,400 to $3,600) to sell its shady science to desperate patients.