Consumer advice: Stem cell therapy isn’t your panacea

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One of the most promising new fields of medicine is the area of stem cell therapies and their use in regenerative medicine. Thereís also been a lot of hype surrounding this magic cure-all treatment, so itís no wonder Iíve received a few calls from readers asking to shed some light from a consumer standpoint.

Iíll preface my statements by stating that Iím not a medical doctor. I did research the topic from a number of resources and viewed what has been posted on the FDA website.

According to the FDA website, stem cells, sometimes called the bodyís master cells, are the cells that develop into blood, brain, bones and all of the bodyís organs. Stem cells have the potential to repair, restore, replace and regenerate cells. Stem cells could also potentially be used to treat many medical conditions and diseases but currently the list of successful treatments is short, so donít buy into the hype that it can cure anything that ails you.

You should also know this FDA caution: There are some unscrupulous providers who offer stem cell products that are both unapproved and unproven. These providers make statements and claims that are simply not supported by the science as it is understood today.

For example, some claim that the same stem cell treatment can cure a wide variety of conditions and diseases; but, results suggest that stem cell treatments are more effective at treating specific conditions since stem cells donít automatically know where to go in the body. And in some documented cases, patients have experienced serious medical reactions including possible tumor growths.

As a result of increasing consumer complaints, the FDA is ramping up its oversight and enforcement to protect people from dishonest stem cell clinics while also encouraging innovation so the medical industry will continue to produce stem cell products to further the effectiveness of treatments.

So how can a consumer protect himself? The FDA states that consumers need to confirm whatís really being offered before you consider ANY treatment. Despite what some providers might claim, this is an experimental (and fairly expensive) treatment and it is not without its risks. Many ask you to pay up front for a series of treatments which arenít usually covered by insurance and then, in the contractís fine print, offer no refunds once the course of treatment starts ó even if you arenít satisfied.

Make sure that any stem cell treatment you are considering is either FDA-approved or being studied under an Investigational New Drug Application. This is a clinical investigation plan submitted and allowed to proceed by the FDA. Some clinics may falsely advertise that FDA review and approval of the stem cell therapy is unnecessary. If you encounter one of these providers, might be best to steer clear.

Bottom line: If you are considering this procedure, do your own research and donít rely solely on the claims stated by a clinic that is advertising these services. Remember, their goal is to get you to purchase treatments because thatís how they get paid.

Either call the FDA at 1-888-463-6332 or check out their website at: https://bit.ly/2mUeCTx

Another great resource is the International Society for Stem Cell Research: http://www.isscr.org

These treatments have been reported to be effective in some cases but are currently limited in their scope, so make sure you determine that what ails you is suitable to a stem cell therapy treatment before you proceed.

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CALLER ID SPOOFING: Thatís when the phone rings and the caller ID on your phone says itís from your bank, the doctorís office, or your best friend, so you answer, thinking itís a legitimate call.

But it might not be. Scammers can make that caller ID say anything.

The FTC has reported a 34 percent increase in unwanted robocalls or live calls just within the last year. If you receive a call from your bank and itís a con artist, he will likely tell you thereís a problem with your account and he will need to verify some information. Donít give him any information.

Instead, hang up and call the bank back at a number you know to be valid. That way if there really is a problem with your account, you can make sure youíre speaking to a bank representative and not a scammer.

Caller ID is not the protection we once thought. We recently had a caller from Denver leave a voice mail message on our phone saying that she had received numerous calls from this number and the caller said he was calling from credit services. This type of spoof call isnít limited to landlines; theyíre coming through on cellphones too, so be cautious.

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REMEMBER: Iím on your side.

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If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, Iím here to help. Please include your name and a phone number or email. Iím available to speak about consumerism to schools, and local and civic groups. Iím a copywriter and consumer advocate living in Coeur díAlene.

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