U.S. Stem Cell Clinics and International Businesses Are Registering For-Profit, Pay-to-Participate “Studies” on ClinicalTrials.gov

New perspective piece highlights the regulatory, ethical and scientific issues associated with U.S. “stem cell clinics” registering pay-to-participate stem cells studies on the NIH registry and database, ClinicalTrials.gov.

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Jul 19, 2017
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The Future Science Group (FSG) journal Regenerative Medicine, has announced the publication of a new Perspective article, in which Leigh Turner (University of Minnesota, MN, USA) discusses the urgent need for careful screening of clinical trials prior to registration with ClinicalTrials.gov in order to improve patient safety.  

In the article, Turner discusses how U.S. clinics and international businesses that engage in direct-to-consumer advertising of purported stem cell treatments are successfully registering for-profit, pay-to-participate “studies” on the NIH registry and database, ClinicalTrials.gov. The registered studies often fail to disclose that individuals are charged to participate in clinical research and many of these studies have serious ethical and scientific flaws. Such shortcomings include blurring distinctions between evidence-based therapies and unproven investigational agents, using inappropriate inclusion and exclusion criteria, failing to conduct and publish adequate peer-reviewed pre-clinical research before administering stem cells to humans, and charging research subjects for cell-based interventions that are not supported by substantial evidence of safety and efficacy.  

Using the ClinicalTrials.gov registry and other sources of information, Turner found that U.S. companies had successfully registered seven ‘patient-sponsored,’ ‘patient-funded,’ or ‘self-funded’ studies in which autologous stem cell interventions are administered to research subjects. Turner identified another eleven studies involving administration of autologous stem cells at U.S. locations in which study subjects are charged to participate even though this information is not disclosed on ClinicalTrials.gov.  

“I’m concerned that ClinicalTrials.gov, once thought to be a reliable and trustworthy source of information for patients and their loved ones, is now being used as a marketing platform by clinics engaging in direct-to-consumer promotion of so-called ‘stem cell treatments’,” stated Turner. “I have many reservations about the studies registered by such businesses.  

“Patients have already been lured to stem cell clinics that use ClinicalTrials.gov to market unproven stem cell interventions. Furthermore, some patients have been injured after undergoing stem cell procedures at such businesses. Many individuals use ClinicalTrials.gov to find legitimate, well-designed, and carefully conducted clinical trials. They are at risk of being misled by study listings that lend an air of legitimacy and credibility to clinics promoting unproven and unlicensed stem cell interventions. Better screening is needed before more patients and research subjects are harmed. It’s astonishing that officials at the NIH and US FDA haven’t already done something to address this obvious matter of patient safety. Putting a disclaimer on the website isn’t sufficient.  

“My article identifies a serious problem and provides recommendations about what needs to be done, but there is much more for journalists, academic researchers, NIH officials and federal regulators to investigate,” concluded Turner.  

Adam Price-Evans, Commissioning Editor of Regenerative Medicine added, “With patients seeking out stem cell treatments becoming increasingly common, this article deals with a very timely issue and shines a light on the current landscape. With continuing advances in stem cell research and an increasing public accessibility to stem cell therapies, full transparency is vital. With the ultimate goal of improving patient safety, hopefully this article will raise awareness and highlight an area that requires further attention.”  

“ClinicalTrials.gov, stem cells and pay-to-participate clinical studies” is published online ahead-of-print in Regenerative Medicine. For interested readers without a paid subscription to Regenerative Medicine, the article is available to RegMedNet members here (free registration required). You can also read an exclusive interview with author, Leigh Turner, on RegMedNet here

The journal  

Regenerative Medicine (MEDLINE, IF: 2.868) is part of the internationally recognized Future Medicine portfolio and is supported by a multidisciplinary, international editorial board comprising leading researchers and opinion leaders from academia and industry, including Senior Editor Chris Mason (UCL, UK), and Associate Editors Robert Lanza (Astellas Global Medicine, CA, USA), Phillipe Menasché (Hôpital Européen Georges Pompidou, FR), Gail Naughton (Histogen Inc., CA, USA) and Glyn Stacey (UK Stem Cell Bank, NIBSC, UK).  

Regenerative Medicine focusses on the entire spectrum of approaches in regenerative medicine, including small molecule drugs, biologics, biomaterials, tissue engineering, and cell and gene therapies. The peer-reviewed journal uniquely supports this important area of biomedical science and healthcare by publishing the very best regenerative medicine research and opinion, encompassing all aspects of the sector ranging from discovery research, to clinical development and commercialization.  

Regenerative Medicine is committed to high-quality scholarly publications, operating a double-blind peer review system, and ensures that all original research and review articles are assessed by a minimum of three experts. It is also committed to supporting authors after publication, and partner with the award-winning Kudos to help authors increase the reach of their published articles. The journal is also partnered with RegMedNet, a free eCommunity aiming to promote global collaboration between all members of the regenerative medicine field as well as keep users up to date with the latest news and opinion, by providing exclusive features, webinars and more. Find out more: http://www.futuremedicine.com/loi/rme  

Call for papers  

The journal is currently inviting submissions of original research, review and perspective pieces, as well as shorter pieces such as editorials and organizational profiles. Submissions are being accepted via the journal’s online submission site. Alternatively, authors are invited to direct any article proposals or general queries to the Commissioning Editor, Adam Price-Evans at a.price-evans@futuremedicine.com.  

About Future Science Group (FSG)  

Founded in 2001, London-based FSG is a progressive publisher focused on breakthrough medical, biotechnological and scientific research. FSG’s portfolio includes two imprints, Future Science and Future Medicine. In addition to the core journal publishing business, FSG develops specialist eCommunities. Key titles and sites include Bioanalysis Zone, RegMedNet, Nanomedicine and the award-winning Regenerative Medicine.  

The aim of FSG is to service the advancement of clinical practice and drug research by enhancing the efficiency of communications among clinicians, researchers and decision-makers, and by providing innovative solutions to their information needs. This is achieved through a customer-centric approach, use of new technologies, products that deliver value-for-money and uncompromisingly high standards. Please see www.futuresciencegroup.com and www.futuremedicine.com for more information.  

For additional information on Regenerative Medicine, please contact:  

Adam Price-Evans Commissioning Editor, Future Science Group a.price-evans@futuremedicine.com

Go to the profile of Regenerative Medicine

Regenerative Medicine

Journal, Future Science Group

Regenerative Medicine is an award-winning peer-reviewed journal, in print and web formats. The journal provides a forum to address the important challenges and advances in stem cell research and regenerative medicine, delivering this essential information in concise, clear and attractive article formats. Among other indexing services Regenerative Medicine is listed by MEDLINE/Index Medicus, EMBASE/Excerpta Medica, Chemical Abstracts, Science Citation Index Expanded™ (SciSearch®), Emcare, Biological Abstracts, BIOSIS Previews, Biotechnology Citation Index®, Journal Citation Reports/Science Edition®, Scopus® with an Impact Factor of 2.786 (2014). Each issue contains expertly drafted Reviews, Original Research articles, Perspectives, Editorials, topical insight from international leaders in their field, and additional added-value content. The Senior Editor of the journal is Professor Chris Mason, University College London. You can find out more about Regenerative Medicine at our website (www.future-science-group.com/journalprofile/regenerative-medicine/), where you can find the aims and scope of the journal and details of our international editorial board.
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