Why Expensive Unproven Stem Cell Treatments Are A New Health Care Trend
The online video seems to promise everything an arthritis patient could want.
The six-minute segment mimics a morning talk show, using a polished TV host to interview guests around a coffee table. Dr. Adam Pourcho extols the benefits of stem cells and regenerative medicine for healing joints without surgery. Pourcho, a sports medicine specialist, says he has used platelet injections to treat his own knee pain, as well as a tendon injury in his elbow. Extending his arm, he says, Its completely healed.
Brendan Hyland, a gym teacher and track coach, describes withstanding intense heel pain for 18 months before seeing Pourcho. Four months after the injections, he says, he was pain-free and has since gone on a 40-mile hike.
I dont have any pain that stops me from doing anything I want, Hyland says.
The videos cheerleading tone mimics the infomercials used to promote stem cell clinics, several of which have recently gotten into hot water with federal regulators, said Dr. Paul Knoepfler, a professor of cell biology and human anatomy at the University of California-Davis School of Medicine. But the marketing video wasnt filmed by a little-known operator.
It was sponsored by Swedish Medical Center, the largest nonprofit health provider in the Seattle area.
Hospitals say theyre providing options to patients who have exhausted standard treatments. But critics suggest the hospitals are exploiting desperate patients and profiting from trendy but unproven treatments.
Cost Of Stem Cell Therapy For Back Pain
The cost of a stem cell treatment for back pain, such as a spinal injections or injections for disc regeneration, may range from USD 5,000 to USD 7,000, according to published reports. Of course, finding the right clinic is very important.
More and more people are considering stem cell therapy for back pain since the overall costs for traditional methods can be costlier than the stem cell-based therapy.
Stem Cell Clinics: Effective Or Pricey False Hope
Second in a two-part series about stem cells. See the first entry here.
Aug. 13, 2019 — Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Mark Berman says he can offer 12,000 reasons people should consider getting stem cell therapy at one of the clinics he co-founded across the country. Thatâs the number of patients he says his 100-plus affiliated clinics have treated for conditions like knee pain, erectile dysfunction, asthma, congestive heart failure, stroke, and Parkinsonâs disease. Sports figures have also publicized the therapies.
But a number of stem cell scientists say that these and other self-described stem cell clinics are misleading the public. The treatments, which often cost $5,000 to $20,000, have no proof of safety or effectiveness. In many cases, thereâs no logical scientific reason to think they might work, they say. And the procedures, which involve moving cells from one part of the body to another, arenât really even stem cell therapies, according to scientists at Harvard University, New York University, the University of California, Davis, Arizona State University, the University of Minnesota, and others.
Stem cell therapies often involve taking cells from one area, like the abdomen, spinning them in a centrifuge to concentrate the cells, and then reinjecting them into another part of the body, like the knee.
âIf they would actually cure a devastating disease, we would all know about it,â he says.
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What’s The Process And How Much Does It Cost
Results look promising is the reigning consensus from studies on stem cell treatment for knees. Stem cell treatment is relatively new with nominal controlled studies. However, there is minimal risk involved with stem cell treatment for knees, and it is relatively affordable compared to other invasive options. For such reasons, many patients opt to try it for themselves rather than wait for more clinical study results.
Patient testimonies mirror the results of completed studies: stem cell treatment is reducing pain and improving mobility. Everyone agrees more studies are needed to understand the effectiveness of stem cell treatment better, as well as to optimize the treatment methods. But, in the meantime, patients suffering from knee joint pain and osteoarthritis have a substantial chance of finding relief through stem cell treatment that is currently available.
Where Do Stem Cells Come From
Bone marrow and adipose tissue are the two sources of adult stem cells that we use. We harvest the bone marrow stem cells from posterior iliac crest . The source of the stem cells is decided on a case-by-case basis. Sometime we will also mix PRP with BMAC, but BMAC already contains platelets so it just depends on the individual case and how large or small the joint is we need to inject.
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How Much Does Stem Cell Therapy Cost In Mansfield
The cost of stem cell therapy varies depending on the number of injections and the complexity of the treatment. Stem cell therapy can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $6,000 for a single injection. Some patients may require multiple injections which may increase the cost of the treatment to $25,000 or more.
Questions About Our Treatments
We hope you found this article informative and it helped answer many of the questions you may have surrounding these various injection treatments. Do you want to ask about treatment for your knees? If you have questions and want to know how we may be able to help you, please contact us and get help and information from our Caring Medical staff.
Brian Hutcheson, DC | Ross Hauser, MD | Danielle Steilen-Matias, PA-C
1 Hauser RA, Orlofsky A. Regenerative injection therapy with whole bone marrow aspirate for degenerative joint disease: a case series. Clinical Medicine Insights: Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2013 Jan 6:CMAMD-S10951. 2 Anz AW, Hubbard R, Rendos NK, Everts PA, Andrews JR, Hackel JG. Bone marrow aspirate concentrate is equivalent to platelet-rich plasma for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis at 1 year: a prospective, randomized trial. Orthopaedic journal of sports medicine. 2020 Feb 17 8:2325967119900958. 3 Shaw B, Darrow M, Derian A. Short-term outcomes in treatment of knee osteoarthritis with 4 bone marrow concentrate injections. Clinical Medicine Insights: Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2018 Jun 14 11:1179544118781080.
This article was updated on May 12, 2021
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What Are We Seeing In This Image
Here is a patient with severe osteoarthritis on the inner portions of their knees. They also have knee instability on that same side. This means that the ligaments of the knees on that side can no longer hold the shin and thigh bones in their natural alignment. The two bones are now pressing against each other and have become bone on bone on the inner side surface.
Stem cell therapy will attempt to get into the bone on bone area and regrow cartilage. But the chances may be diminished if the knee instability is not addressed.
What Is A Stem Cell
The surgeon diagnosed our anonymous patient with osteoarthritis in one of her knees and told her that stem cells might help. His procedure would cost $3,500.
At another private clinic, a family doctor who also performs stem cell treatment told our patient that it would cost $3,000 for one knee and $3,500 for injections in both knees.
The second doctor said the injections work 100 per cent of the time. Yet there is no good scientific evidence to support that claim.
“They are experimental,” said Dr. Duncan Stewart of stem cell therapies. “We don’t know if they work, and we don’t know how safe they are.”
Stewart is the scientific director of the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine and is conducting clinical trials on the use of stem cells at the Ottawa Hospital.
Rick McGregor of Red Deer went to a private clinic in Alberta and paid $1,700 for stem cell injections in both knees, but he said there was no improvement.
“I waited the six months, and there might have been a little bit , but it didn’t last very long,” he said.
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What To Expect After Treatment
Patients are often instructed to rest the injected area for a few days after either treatment, and soreness and some swelling is to be expected. A cold compress can be placed on the area to help with both of these issues. You should only take pain medications as prescribed by your doctor. Physical therapy and muscle exercises may be recommended to help maintain joint health.
If you have knee pain and want to see if platelet-rich plasma therapy or stem-cell injections can help you, book an appointment online or over the phone with Premier Spine and Sports Medicine today.
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Does The Fda Approve Stem Cell Therapy
Different countries have different regulations on stem cell therapy, which is why some people choose to fly out and get their treatment abroad.
For example, in the USA, the Food and Drug Administration only allows stem cell-based therapies that use bone marrow or cord blood to treat cancers.
Whats important to bear in mind is that you have to make sure that the stem cell clinic youre considering is doing everything ethically and legally. There have been cases in Canada where stem cell clinics are recklessly advertising treatments without following industry standards. This begs the question how do you even know if a stem cell clinic is legitimate?
Here are several signs that would indicate that a clinic is operating legally and ethically:
- They employ doctors and nurses who specialize in stem cell-based treatments.
- They are very transparent about their procedures which are listed on their website.
- They follow the laws in the country where they are based.
- They offer you a full consultation or diagnosis first before starting with any kind of procedure.
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Unproven Stem Cell Therapies ‘a Mess’
“This is complex science. You can’t just inject cells into a knee and hope it works,” said Timothy Caulfield, a professor at the University of Alberta and a Canada research chair in health law and policy.
He has been studying the emergence of stem cell therapies over the last two decades.
“Marketing of unproven stem cell therapies is a big issue. It’s a mess,” he said.
So far, stem cell injections have not been tested in a blinded placebo controlled clinical trial. Still, patients and doctors insist that they have seen examples where the injections have relieved joint pain.
Adele Engel from Panorama, B.C., has travelled to the U.S. and spent more than $5,000 on two series of stem cell injections in her knees to treat osteoarthritis. She said she noticed some improvement and is considering having it done a third time.
“Well, I guess I’m getting a little bit greedy,” she said.
She estimated the first procedure gave her a 50 per cent improvement in her knee.
“So, I was like, well, if I try it again, could I bump it up to maybe I could get a 60 per cent improvement and then could I bump it up even more.”
Caulfield says there are a variety of explanations for patients like Engel reporting benefits.
“Placebo effect or regression to the mean,” Caulfield said, referring to the phenomenon where conditions tend to improve on their own. “And you’ve got the cognitive bias that comes with having paid a lot of money for a service.”
Is Stem Cell Therapy Permanent
Stem cell therapy works through continuous repair and regenerative abilities. When stem cells are injected into an area with a diseased or damaged tissue, the stem cells will continue to regenerate and form new cells in the area for up to a year or longer.
Stem cell therapy provides relief that can last for years and it can provide permanent repair in some soft tissue injuries.
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How Stem Cell Therapy Can Help
Stem cell therapy also uses your body to heal itself. In this case, it uses adult stem cells extracted from bone marrow or fat. Stem cells are basic cells that can turn into any cells the body needs. Extracting them and injecting them into injured areas can speed healing.
Injections of stem cells can help reduce inflammation, repair damaged tissue, and may even help prevent knee replacement surgery.
First, some bone marrow or fat tissue is extracted with a needle. Then the stem cells are harvested from the tissue. Finally, the stem cells are injected into the injured area. The process can take up to an hour.
Most Commonly Treated Knee Conditions
Knee patients come to us with two types of knee conditions:
An example of a knee patient who has successfully utilized stem cells in the treatment of chronic knee pain is someone who has degenerative knee cartilage following years of athletic activity and wants to continue to maintain an active lifestyle. An example of an acute knee injury is a skier or golfer who has injured a knee ligament or meniscus and wants to heal effectively and get back to their favorite sport quickly.
We see golfers, skiers, hikers, tennis players, horseback riders, runners, and active participants in just about every sport. We also see knee patients who are not athletes and do not aspire to keep running marathons, but who want to comfortably participate in everyday activities without the need for invasive procedures or to undergo knee replacement surgery.
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Drug Discovery And Biomedical Research
The ability to grow up functional adult tissues indefinitely in culture through Directed differentiation creates new opportunities for drug research. Researchers are able to grow up differentiated cell lines and then test new drugs on each cell type to examine possible interactions in vitro before performing in vivo studies. This is critical in the development of drugs for use in veterinary research because of the possibilities of species-specific interactions. The hope is that having these cell lines available for research use will reduce the need for research animals used because effects on human tissue in vitro will provide insight not normally known before the animal testing phase.
- With the advent of induced pluripotent stem cells , treatments being explored and created for the used in endangered low production animals possible. Rather than needing to harvest embryos or eggs, which are limited, the researchers can remove mesenchymal stem cells with greater ease and greatly reducing the danger to the animal due to noninvasive techniques. This allows the limited eggs to be put to use for reproductive purposes only.
Which Country Has The Most Advanced Stem Cell Therapy
One country that has stood out in stem cell therapy advancements is Japan. Japan helped to bring regenerative medicine and stem-cell technology to the rest of the world.
Japan is seen as a leader in stem cell therapies. Japan is internationally recognized for the work and input the country has continued to make in the field of stem cell therapy.
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Cost Of Stem Cell Treatment
At Twin Cities Pain and Regenerative Medicine we take great pride in being upfront and transparent when it comes to the cost of stem cell treatment in Minneapolis.
And as weve discussed previously, its important for our patients to know stem cell procedures are generally not covered by their insurance plan. This means our patients will end up paying out of pocket for stem cell treatment.
However, having said all that we regularly receive the following question:
What To Think About Before You Get A Treatment
The International Society for Stem Cell Research, a scientific group, publishes guidelines on its website to help patients decide what to consider when theyâre thinking of getting treated at a stem cell clinic. Hyun co-wrote the most recent guidelines in 2016.
Before agreeing to treatments at stem cell clinics, you should ask questions about the procedure and the doctor performing it, say Emma Frow and David Brafman, both PhDs and assistant professors at Arizona State University. The pair helped co-author a study on the stem cell industry, published this month, that offered details about nearly 170 stem cell businesses in the Southwestern United States.
At those businesses, many specialists in orthopedics, sports medicine, and rehabilitation focused their stem cell treatments on conditions related to their specialty, according to the study, while specialists in cosmetic or alternative medicine were more likely to use cell therapies to treat a wide range of medical conditions. Next, the two say they want to examine the boards that are certifying some of these doctors as qualified.
But the lack of regulation and certification puts more pressure on patients to carefully consider the procedure and their doctorâs credentials, the pair says. Currently, Frow and Brafman say, the system is stacked against patients.
What Countries Use Stem Cell Therapy
Many countries use stem cell therapies, but each country is unique in terms of regulations and restrictions.
In Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Austria, Italy and Finland, the use of embryonic stem cells in any procedure is strictly prohibited. While some countries do not allow research with human embryos, these types of studies are allowed in countries such as the United Kingdom, Spain, Greece and Sweden.
Some of the more popular countries that patients visit to undergo stem cell-based treatments include Mexico, Panama, Ukraine, China and India.
The main reason is costs that appear lower by international standards, which may also result from the lower regulatory hurdles in some of these countries. The less regulatory supervision there is, the cheaper treatments can be offered. However, the safety of such treatments is not necessarily guaranteed.
In Germany very strict regulations must be adhered to. For this very reason, Germany is known for the fact that clinics and doctors work to the highest quality standards and produce safe drugs. This quality usually comes at a price. The effort to comply with the legal requirements is reflected in the pricing. In return, you receive a high-quality treatment that has been confirmed as safe by the authorities.
In Europe and the USA, treatment costs vary depending on whether it is a one-time or continuous treatment.
At the Anova Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the cost of a single treatment with BMC is approximately 4950 USD.