The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has cracked down on clinics that are making claims that certain stem cell therapies can treat a number of serious diseases such as macular degeneration, Parkinson’s disease, autism, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and heart attacks.
The FTC announced Thursday that it had settled charges of deceptive advertising against two California clinics, Regenerative Medical Group and Telehealth Medical Group. Both clinics are owned by Dr. Bryn Jarald Henderson. According to the FTC, the clinics earned $3.31 million between 2014 and 2017 due to the stem cell therapies offered. The two clinics claimed to offer “amniotic stem cell therapy” for the prevention of the aforementioned diseases. The FTC said that the price of the initial stem cell therapy injections ranged from $9,500 to $15,000. Patients were encouraged to undergo multiple treatments, with follow-up procedures having a price tag between $5,000 and $8,000 each, the FTC said.
According to the FTC, Henderson made unsubstantiated claims that the stem cell therapies his clinic offered were effective treatments for the diseases. The FTC charged that the clinics misrepresented facts about their alleged stem cell services. Not only did the clinics suggest that the injections could cure or mitigate the disease symptoms mentioned before, but were also comparable or better than conventional medical treatments. On his website, stemcell.life, Henderson claimed that the therapies could restore vision to blind patients and reverse the symptoms of autism. The website is currently down now with a post that says “Under Maintenance. We will be back soon.”
Following the FTC complaint, Henderson and his companies agreed to settle the complaint for $3.31 million, the amount the two clinics made over the three year period. However, the FTC said the judgement against Henderson will be partially suspended after his businesses pay $525,000 to the commission. The money paid may be used to provide refunds to consumers harmed by the defendants’ allegedly deceptive conduct, the FTC said. The settlement order requires the defendants to notify all current and former patients of the settlement within 30 days.
In addition to the fine, the settlement with the clinics prohibits the defendants from making these and other health claims in the future unless the claims are true and supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence, the FTC said.
“Clinics must have solid evidence to back up their claims before advertising that stem cell therapy can treat serious medical issues, particularly those affecting children and older adults,” Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement.