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Stem cell treatment no panacea, docs say

/ 05:22 AM July 31, 2013

Researcher Shruti Dave (right) and assistant Chetan Patel work on stem cell cultures at the Transplantation Biology Research Centre at The Institute of Kidney Disease and Research Centre (IKDRC), Civil Hospital campus in Ahmedabad on February 6, 2013. The Philippine College of Physicians wants the Food and Drug Administration to more strictly regulate the use of stem cell therapy, which was being “wrongfully projected as a cure-all.” AFP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) wants the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to more strictly regulate the use of stem cell therapy, which was being “wrongfully projected as a cure-all.”

At a press conference in Quezon City on Tuesday, PCP vice president Dr. Anthony Leachon said the use of stem cell therapy to treat almost all medical conditions was becoming rampant even though the treatment has been tested and approved only for some blood and bone marrow cancers and primary immune deficiencies. This poses serious safety issues, he warned.

Leachon said the use of the treatment to cure other diseases or even slow down aging has not been scientifically proven in clinical studies.

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He said current government regulations were centered on the proficiency of the medical practitioners and not on the treatment’s use and efficacy.

While the therapy has been clinically tested to be beneficial in the treatment of cancers in the blood and bone marrow as well as primary immune deficiencies through stem cell transplants from a person’s own body (autologous) or from a donor (allogeneic), it has not been proven effective to cure other health conditions.

Leachon said stem cell therapy has been wrongfully projected as a cure for all kinds of illness including diseases of the heart, lungs, skin, and the kidneys; neurologic, rheumatologic and gastrointestinal conditions; as well as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, autism, the human immunodeficiency virus or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS), and even aging.

Stressing that simple diseases can be treated simply without resorting to stem cell therapy, he added: “Preventive health is always preferable to depending on quick fixes.”

The president of the Philippine Society of General Internal Medicine (PSGIM), Dr. Antonio Dans, clarified that the PCP is not against stem cell therapy per se but about its effective use in the treatment of health conditions other than blood-related illnesses.

He said that simple case reports or individual accounts on the effectiveness of the treatment for certain conditions have “low scientific value.”

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