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Nikhil Prasad  Fact checked by:Thailand Medical News Team Oct 27, 2023  1 month, 2 weeks, 11 hours, 43 minutes ago

BREAKING NEWS! University Of California Exposes Fraud by Clinics And Wellness Centers Promoting Stem Cells And Exosomes For COVID-19 And Long COVID

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BREAKING NEWS! University Of California Exposes Fraud by Clinics And Wellness Centers Promoting Stem Cells And Exosomes For COVID-19 And Long COVID
Nikhil Prasad  Fact checked by:Thailand Medical News Team Oct 27, 2023  1 month, 2 weeks, 11 hours, 43 minutes ago
COVID-19 News: In a groundbreaking revelation, the University of California, Irvine (UCI) has uncovered a disturbing trend of fraudulent advertising in the field of regenerative medicine. The study, exposed a network of businesses that have been promoting unproven stem cell interventions and exosome products as treatments and preventatives for COVID-19. These direct-to-consumer marketing tactics have targeted individuals suffering from long COVID and those looking for immune boosters and preventatives, ultimately putting their health and finances at risk. The study also shed light on the concerning fact that more than 75% of these clinics are located in the United States and Mexico, with 24 clinics in the U.S. alone. Such clinics offering fraudulent stem cell and exosome therapies were also found in Thailand, UAE, Spain, Malaysia and Philippines.

While the published study identifed only one such clinic in Thailand,  there are many such wellness clinics found in various malls, hotels and even service apartment building and office buildings in Thailand that have the indirect blessings of the local medical regulatory entity and local authorities to promote many such fraudulent therapies including stem cells therapies for COVID-19, Long COVID, anti-aging, glaucoma, cancers etc as the regulatory rules in Thailand allow doctors to operate such scams, hence you can find scenarios such asa  trained radiologists or GP with no experience in the relevant specialty…  running a wellness clinic offering all kinds of pseudoscience based protocols for various diseases and even anti-aging procedures. Many of these expensive-costing scams not only involve stem cells but also IV drips of various garbage, placenta injections, thymus peptide injections, gold thread acupuncture etc.
What is even worse is that many of these stem cells suppliers servicing these clinics and wellness centers around the world are actually Eastern Europeans working with Chinese manufacturers supplying sub-standard products. (Thailand Medical News will be publishing a much more detailed expose on these in a coming article with the support of certain local agencies.) Beware that most of these wellness centers are run by unethical and greedy doctors that should be disbarred and in some cases even have unlicensed foreign doctors or scammers etc operating on the premises.
Exploiting a Global Health Crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic has witnessed the emergence of numerous unproven and unapproved medical interventions that claim to treat, cure, or prevent the virus. While this phenomenon is not new, businesses have capitalized on the global health crisis by using online direct-to-consumer advertising to promote a wide range of supposed treatments, from colloidal silver and vitamin-based immune boosters to stem cell therapies and exosome products. This has given rise to a dangerous marketplace where vulnerable individuals may fall victim to deceptive advertising and fraudulent claims.
The Regenerative Medicine Marketplace
The regenerative medicine marketplace is no stranger to the premature commercialization of treatments and therapies. Stem cell-based interventions and exosome products are touted for their potential regenerative and immunomodulatory properties. However, these product s remain investigational and lack substantial evidence of their safety and efficacy for treating COVID-19. Nonetheless, some businesses have seized the opportunity to market these interventions in the context of the pandemic.
Exploiting Long COVID Patients
Long COVID, a condition affecting individuals who continue to experience significant health issues after recovering from the acute phase of COVID-19, has been a primary target for these businesses. Individuals grappling with symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue, "brain fog," heart palpitations, and loss of smell have sought alternative treatments out of desperation. These patients are susceptible to having their hope and suffering exploited by entities making appealing therapeutic claims without the necessary scientific evidence.
Moreover, the claim that stem cell interventions and exosome products can prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection or "boost" the immune system remains unsupported by a scientific consensus. These marketing claims differ from translational research efforts that have produced meaningful safety and efficacy data for specific stem cell interventions and exosome products. In essence, these businesses offer false hope to patients.
Inadequate Regulatory Oversight
While some regulatory bodies, like the US Federal Trade Commission and the US Food and Drug Administration, have issued warning letters and taken legal action against businesses making misleading claims about stem cell and exosome products, many businesses remain undetected by regulatory and law enforcement agencies. The UCI study suggests that these businesses continue to operate due to the fluid nature of this marketplace, where some cease marketing interventions after receiving warnings, while others evade regulatory attention and new clinics emerge.
This highlights the need for continuous vigilance and a more robust regulatory framework to protect patients from potentially harmful products and deceptive marketing practices.
The Study's Methods
The UCI researchers employed a three-pronged approach to uncover businesses engaged in direct-to-consumer marketing of stem cell interventions and exosome products for COVID-19. The methods included:
-Reviewing a Database: In 2021, they reviewed a database of US businesses engaged in direct-to-consumer marketing of stem cell treatments to check if any were promoting these interventions for COVID-19.
-Online Searches: They conducted online searches using various terms related to stem cell treatments for COVID-19 to identify international companies and any previously undiscovered US businesses.
-Reviewing Business Websites: They revisited and analyzed websites of businesses previously identified in a 2020 article that raised concerns about the selling of unproven stem cell interventions.
The data collected revealed that 38 businesses operated or facilitated access to 60 clinics, with the majority of clinics located in the United States and Mexico.
Unveiling the Unscrupulous Practices
The study uncovered that 36 of the businesses marketed stem cell interventions and exosome products as treatments for Long COVID, six as "immune boosters," five for those in the acute infection phase, and two as preventive remedies. These businesses offered a variety of stem cell and exosome products, including umbilical cord blood-derived mesenchymal stem cells, exosomes, and more.

The mode of administration was also diverse, with businesses offering intravenous infusions, nebulization, injections, and other methods. According to various COVID-19 News reports, the prices for these treatments varied widely, with costs ranging from $2,950 to $25,000, posing significant financial risks to patients who have to pay out-of-pocket since these treatments are not covered by insurance.
A Call for Regulatory Action and Patient Education
The study underscores the urgent need for greater regulatory oversight, research, testing, and approval of stem cell treatments and exosome therapies for COVID-19. The lack of evidence-based treatments approved by national regulators leaves patients vulnerable to fraudulent practices. Patients may end up paying for purported treatments marketed directly to them, instead of participating in well-designed clinical trials that can generate meaningful scientific knowledge for the benefit of the public.
In conclusion, the UCI study has unveiled a disturbing trend of businesses exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to market unproven stem cell interventions and exosome products. These businesses target individuals suffering from long COVID and those seeking immune boosters and preventatives. The lack of regulatory oversight in this area poses significant risks to both patient health and financial well-being. Addressing this issue requires the collaboration of regulatory bodies, law enforcement agencies, and healthcare providers, along with robust patient education to protect individuals from deceptive marketing practices. It is imperative to ensure that patients receive safe and effective treatments based on scientific evidence rather than false promises.
The study was published in the peer reviewed journal: Stem Cell Reports.
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