FDA cracks down on clinics selling unapproved stem cell therapies

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a crackdown on stem-cell clinics marketing and selling unapproved and potentially harmful therapies for cancer and other diseases.

The agency took action against two large clinics in Florida and California, which have started selling treatments that the agency says use stem cells but have not been approved as safe and effective by the FDA.

“A small number unscrupulous actors who have seized on the clinical promise of regenerative medicine, while exploiting the uncertainty, in order to make deceptive, and sometimes corrupt, assurances to patients based on unproven and, in some cases, dangerously dubious products,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., said in a statement.

The FDA issued a warning letter to US Stem Cell Clinic of Sunrise, Florida, after an inspection in which the agency found that the clinic was processing body fat into stem cells and administering the product both intravenously or directly into the spinal cord of patients with Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease and pulmonary fibrosis.

“The FDA has not reviewed or approved any biological products manufactured by US Stem Cell Clinic for any use,” the agency said in a statement.

During the inspection, investigators also reported the clinic deviated from guidelines put in place to prevent microbiological contamination, which puts patients at risk for infections, the agency said.

Also this week, the FDA seized five vials of a smallpox vaccine from StemImmune Inc. in San Diego, California, which the agency said was used to create an unapproved treatment of stem cells and excess amounts of the vaccine, which was then administered to cancer patients at the California Stem Cell Treatment Centers in Rancho Mirage and Beverly Hills, California.

The FDA says this treatment put patients at risk for potential harms including inflammation and swelling of the heart and surrounding tissues.

The agency said it will investigate how StemImmune Inc. obtained the vials of the vaccine, which each contained 100 doses. The vaccine is not commercially available and is reserved only for people considered at high risk for smallpox, such as some members of the military. One vial was partially used, while four of the vials were still intact, the FDA reports.

“I’ve directed the agency to vigorously investigate these kinds of unscrupulous clinics using the full range of our tools, be it…

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