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Rajinder Singh Nirwan, Thomas Arno Albini, Jayanth Sridhar, Harry W Flynn, Ajay E. Kuriyan; Direct-to-consumer marketing by U.S. Stem-Cell Clinics for Ocular Conditions. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2018;59(9):537. doi: https://doi.org/.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Stem cell-based interventions (SCBIs) are becoming increasingly available to the public via online direct-to-consumer advertisement within the United States (U.S.), yet little evidence-based medicine exists for their use in terms of efficacy and safety. We performed a cross-sectional clinical study to investigate “stem-cell clinics” across the U.S. that advertise and offer SCBIs for ocular conditions.
Using a systematic, keyword-based Internet search, content analysis of company websites was utilized to identify and analyze U.S. businesses marketing SCBIs for ocular conditions. We included U.S.-based companies that participate in direct-to-consumer online marketing, have websites that can be data-mined with content analysis, and advertise therapy for ocular conditions. We recorded and analyzed clinic locations, source of stem cells (SCs) used, route of administration, marketed ocular conditions, and cost of treatment. Businesses that had offices in the U.S. but performed the procedure in various countries were noted and recorded, but were excluded from the analysis.
We discovered 40 companies that advertise SCBIs for ocular conditions. California contained the most clinics (21), followed by Florida (12), and Illinois (9). Sources of SCs included autologous adipose-derived SCs (36; 87.5%) and bone marrow-derived stem cells (9; 22.5%), placental SCs (2; 5.0%), amniotic SCs (2; 5.0%), peripheral blood-derived SCs (2; 5.0%), and umbilical cord SCs (2; 5.0%). We found 8 (20.0%) companies that offered the use of multiple cell types. The remaining 32 (80.0%) made use of a single SC source. The most common marketed ocular condition was macular degeneration (34). The most common routes of administration were intravenous (22) and “targeted injections” (16), while others included more ocular specific routes such as intravitreal injections (2), retrobulbar injections (2), retrofundal injection (1), and eye drops (1). The cost of SCBIs ranged from $4,000 to $10,500.
It is evident that SCBIs for ocular conditions are readily available via direct-to-consumer marketing strategies. The SCs are harvested from numerous sources and administered in different routes. Recently, there have been reports of blinding complications after SCBIs at SC clinics. This study demonstrates there is a large number of SCBIs offered at SC clinics across the U.S. for a variety of ocular conditions.
This is an abstract that was submitted for the 2018 ARVO Annual Meeting, held in Honolulu, Hawaii, April 29 - May 3, 2018.
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