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Research Letter
June 25, 2019

Characteristics and Scope of Training of Clinicians Participating in the US Direct-to-Consumer Marketplace for Unproven Stem Cell Interventions

Author Affiliations
  • 1Albany Medical College, Albany, New York
  • 2Biomedical Ethics Research Program, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
  • 3University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics, Minneapolis
  • 4Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations, Chicago
JAMA. 2019;321(24):2463-2464. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.5837

More than 700 US clinics advertise unproven stem cell treatments.1 Hematopoietic stem cell transplants to treat various hematologic disorders are evidence-based whereas most other stem cell interventions are investigational. This study examined the characteristics and scope of training of clinicians performing unproven stem cell procedures.

Through systematic internet searches and content analysis, a 2016 study identified 351 US companies marketing unproven stem cell procedures provided at 570 clinics. The largest concentrations of companies were in California, Florida, and Texas.2 Focusing on companies in these 3 states and identified in the 2016 study,2 we excluded companies that ceased marketing stem cell procedures by January 2018. From company websites, we extracted information related to characteristics and training of all identified professionals. For physicians, we examined state medical board licensing databases to confirm qualifications and compared information obtained from the Federation of State Medical Board (FSMB) Physician Data Center (PDC). The PDC contains specialty board certifications from the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), whereas most information in state medical board databases is self-reported. When discrepancies were found, information from the PDC was used.