Ruling frees FDA to crack down on stem cell clinics

Posted: July 26, 2012 at 12:19 am

Peter Aldhous, San Francisco bureau chief

It's official: stem cells are drugs. At least, that's the opinion of the US District Court in Washington DC, which has ruled that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the authority to regulate clinics offering controversial stem cell therapies.

Treatments in which stem cells are harvested from bone marrow and injected straight back into the same patient are deemed part of routine medical practice - not regulated by the US government. But if the cells are subjected to more than "minimal manipulation", the FDA maintains that the therapy becomes a "drug", which must be specifically approved for use.

Christopher Centeno, medical director of Regenerative Sciences, vows to appeal. "This is really round one," he says. "Our position remains that a patient's cells are not drugs."

Scott hopes that the FDA will now step up its efforts to regulate other clinics offering unproven stem cell therapies. These include Celltex of Sugar Land, Texas, which rose to prominence after Texas governor Rick Perry was injected with stem cells supplied by the company to aid his recovery from back surgery.

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Ruling frees FDA to crack down on stem cell clinics

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