Ireland Tops List on Promotion of Stem Cell Therapies


Ireland has the highest per capita number of clinics engaging in direct-to-consumer marketing of stem cell therapies, according to the world's largest-ever study of such clinics. It comes ahead of Singapore, Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States. Published in the journal, Cell Stem Cell, the new study reveals murky marketing practices and dubious claims from 417 unique websites advertising stem cell-based therapies in what experts say is an “under-regulated industry.”


“In the early days of this under-regulated industry, clinics were typically located in developing economies, where weak laws or lax enforcement enabled these businesses to operate with relative impunity,” says the University of Sydney’s Professor John Rasko, the study’s senior author. Previously it was thought that stem cell tourism offered online was predominately being promoted from countries in South East Asia, Russia and Eastern Europe. “More recently, richer countries such as Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States have seen clinics take advantage of real or imagined gaps in regulation.”


The study reveals that great majority of websites (83 per cent) offered adult stem cells, followed by stem cells of unspecified type (13 per cent). The remainder offered embryonic, induced pluripotent, or foetal stem cells (8 per cent) or amniotic stem cells (1 per cent). About half the sites (52 per cent) did not indicate the source of the cells.


Websites were frequently imprecise about the medical conditions for which they offered interventions and used inconsistent terminology or categories of diseases across sites.


Websites most commonly targeted anti-aging/skincare stem cell applications (47 per cent), indicating that marketers offer interventions for lifestyle or aesthetic, rather than strictly medical, concerns. Such claims are typically made without supporting evidence from randomised, controlled independent clinical trials and lack market authorisation from a regulatory authority.


The highest number of clinics undertaking direct-to-consumer marketing was overwhelmingly found in the USA (187 clinics), followed by India (35), Mexico (28), China (23), Australia (19), and the UK (16). But taking into account the population (per 10 million citizens), Ireland (11.2), Singapore (10.0), and Australia (8.1) led the list of advanced economies.

Science Daily. August 4. Cell Stem Cell. August 4.

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