Dr. Joel D. Richnak: Do your research on ‘Stem Cell’ therapy
Special to The Union
Many of us have seen the newspaper ads over the past few months, put out by Vitality Healthcare Reno, promoting their services by offering seminars on regenerative medicine and “Stem Cell” therapy. They list a number of conditions that they claim to treat with stem cells derived from umbilical cord tissue, including knee and other joint pain, back pain, and peripheral neuropathy, among others. I was moved by one of my patient’s stories to write this article and shed more light on this world of stem cell therapy.
I’ll get to that story, but first want to share that I have talked with many of my patients who have attended these educational seminars put on by Vitatility Healthcare, as they had wanted to hear my opinion on their treatment. I inform them that although there are various growth factors in umbilical cord products that can help with healing, there are no actual live stem cells (in contrast to regenerative medicine procedures where one’s own bone marrow derived stem cells are used). There have been a number of University backed studies verifying that this is a dead tissue procedure.
Therefore, to call it a stem cell treatment is misleading and fraudulent.
In fact, the irresponsible marketing which this and other such companies are employing (there are several other similar products on the market being offered by hundreds of clinics throughout the nation making the same claims) has reached such a level that the FDA is currently enforcing their policy of calling this a dead tissue product, and consequently shutting down those clinics which continue to market their products as a live “stem cell” therapy.
Back to my patient’s story. He was given an umbilical cord derived “stem cell” injection one month ago from a Vitality Healthcare practitioner to treat his knee arthritis. When he came to see me, he had experienced no relief of pain or reduction of symptoms. One month prior to this procedure, he had a steroid injection in the same knee. Any person going through a procedure using their own live bone marrow concentrate stem cell is educated that they would need to wait 2-3 months after a steroid injection, for steroid can block any type of healing that the stem cell procedure is trying to promote, and therefore nullify any healing effect. When asked, he informed me that he received no such education by Vitality Healthcare, and again had the procedure done only one month after a steroid injection. Further, the patient had been taking an anti-inflammatory medication called Meloxicam for several months. Anti-inflammatory medications, like steroid injections, will block healing potential that the stem cell procedure is trying to promote. Because of this, it is advised to discontinue this medication 2-3 weeks before the procedure. Yet again, my patient was given no such education regarding this medication. In summary, my patient received a dead tissue product (after being told that it had live stem cells), was given the injection within a month of getting a steroid injection and while still on an anti-inflammatory medication. Needless to say, his potential of getting any positive effects from this procedure is extremely low. Yet, a Vitality Healthcare practitioner informed him that he was an excellent candidate.
Unfortunately, my patient is one of thousands of patients across this country who have fallen victim to this very aggressive and misleading marketing. This is unfortunate in many ways. Not only did my patient realize no symptom relief after spending several thousand dollars, but these types of providers can negatively impact the entire field of stem cell research. Bone marrow concentrate stem cell procedures are an extremely exciting area of both research and treatment. The research is still young, but many believe that this treatment has great potential in many areas of medicine. Because of this clinical potential, like any new technology, there is much excitement, but with this excitement comes providers wanting to take advantage of the hype by marketing and selling through misleading information. This ultimately puts the potential of stem cell therapy at significant risk since these bad players make a bad name for the entire stem cell world. This puts responsible providers and researchers at risk of being shut down, much like what happened in Canada just earlier this year.
I encourage anybody who is considering this very exciting treatment to do their research and not fall prey to this very aggressive and misleading marketing. For more information, please visit my website http://www.mtnviewrehab.com.
Dr. Joel D. Richnak is a physician in Grass Valley.
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