The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advising the public to be wary of stem cell therapy scams after three people were arrested last December.
According to the FDA’s advisory, the men were charged with 15 counts of “criminal activity related to manufacturing, selling and using stem cells without FDA sanction or approval.” A fourth man is on the run.
The FDA alleges that a 48-year-old licensed midwife named Alberto Ramon provided Medical University of South Carolina researcher Vincent Dammai, 40, with umbilical cord stem cells. Dammai used his expertise and the school’s facilities to grow the cells without the FDA or school’s approval.
Francisco Morales, 53, was charged with falsely claiming to be a medical doctor who offered stem cell cures at a Brownsville, Texas clinic.
An FDA Stowe-Away
Larry Stowe, 58, is currently being sought by FDA investigators who claim that he promoted himself as a stem cell expert with the ability to heal individuals suffering from incurable diseases.
Calling himself a doctor, Stowe found himself in the spotlight when he was featured on a 2010 episode of “60 Minutes”, attempting to convince an ALS patient that he could be cured with Stowe’s pricey stem cell treatment.
“The investigation identified a scheme whereby the suffering and hopes of victims in extreme medical needs were used and manipulated for personal profit,” said FBI agent Cory Nelson.
Stowe, whose Stowe Foundation website describes him as a “dedicated scientist and tireless researcher,” makes the unusual assertion that he was a senior research engineer for Mobil Oil Research and Development, and that he “remains an international consultant to Mobil Oil…”
Stowe also claims to be a much sought-after speaker and science advisor who has worked with Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Although stem cells therapy is a promising area of medicine, medical experts warn that charlatans abound. Many are taking advantage of people seeking a cure for often incurable conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and ALS.
“They are using a new marketing tool to make you think that this is something very futuristic and cutting edge,” said University of Texas Health Science Center ethicist Craig Klugman. “I would be very skeptical of anything claiming to have stem cells in it because, at least in the United States, there is nothing commercially approved for use with stem cells in it.”
Stem Cell Beauty is Not Skin Deep
The FDA is also cautioning consumers about stem cell creams and lotions that can purportedly cure sagging skin and wrinkles.
In March 1, 2011, the agency sent a warning letter to Joe Adams of JabaLabs LLC in San Antonio, Texas. According to the FDA, JabaLabs’ products StemCellin Intensive Emulsion, StemCellin Deep Wrinkle Serum, and Faitoz-25 were all being aggressively marketed online as drugs.
By the end of March, JabaLabs had toned down their claims, which resulted in the company receiving a second letter from the FDA stating that while they had toned down their claims, the FDA was going to monitor them regularly.
While Internet ads and e-mail spam hype the wonders of various stem cell treatments, most are hoaxes.
As of January 2012, The FDA has not approved any stem cell products except some that treat certain blood cancers, as well as immune system and metabolic disorders.
The FDA cautions prospective patients that unapproved therapies may lead to injected cells morphing, migrating throughout the body and actually creating tumors.
The Mayo clinic says that donated stem cells sometimes attack the host’s body. Reaction times may vary from a few days to several years.