A study of stem cell therapy clinics has found 40 companies with 76 clinics across the United States are offering patients non-Food-and-Drug-Administration-approved “cell therapy” for ocular conditions, according to a speaker at the American Society of Retina Specialists meeting held in Vancouver on 20-25 July.

“There is a large number of cell therapy clinics across the United States working on providing direct-to-consumer marketing,” DrAjay Kuriyan, MD, said at the meeting.

“They offer treatment for a variety of retinal conditions and the cells are harvested from different sources and administered in various different routes.

“It’s very important to continue to educate patients about the potential risks of treatments at such stem cell clinics.”

The researchers found 187 websites offering non-FDA-approved stem-cell interventions at 215 different clinics across the United States. The fee for treatment injections ranged from $5,000 to $50,000.

Fees from $US5,000 to $50,000

The cross-sectional, clinical study used systematic, keyword-based internet searches, and websites were data-mined for content analysis.

Of the 76 clinics offering stem-cell treatments for ocular conditions, the most common marketed treatment was “macular degeneration” with 35 clinics offering treatment.

“The most common were macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, diabetic retinopathy, and retinal detachment. Some of the websites were very vague, including ‘ophthalmology’ as a condition they treated,” Dr Kuriyan said.

The common source of the “cell therapy” advertised by the clinics was “autologous adipose-derived stem cells,” with 67 per cent of the clinics offering that therapy. Thirty-two clinics offered single “cell” source types and eight companies offered multiple “cell” types, Dr Kuriyan said.

Eye injections, intravitreal injections and retrobulbar injections were the three most used routes of “cell therapy” administration, he said.