(NaturalNews) The government of Costa Rica has ordered a clinic to stop offering experimental stem-cell treatments, claiming that the treatments have never been tested for safety or effectiveness.
"If [a treatment's] efficiency and safety has not been proven, we don't believe it should be used," said Dr. Ileana Herrera of the health ministry.
"I think her point was that it is not FDA approved," said Neil Riordan, owner of the Institute of Cellular Medicine clinic.
Riordan opened the clinic in 2006, and obtained a license to remove and store adult stem cells from umbilical cords and from patients' own fat and bone marrow. In addition to this approved activity, however, the clinic offered treatments involving the re-injection of these stem cells into different parts of the body in order to treat conditions such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis and spinal injuries.
Stem cells have the capability to change into any type of functioning adult cell, making them a promising avenue of research for the treatment of diseases involving severe cell death. Yet no stem cell treatments are currently approved for use in North America or Europe, driving "medical tourists" to places like Costa Rica that might offer such treatments.
Yet according to medical experts, the effectiveness of such treatments cannot be proven without controlled clinical studies that test them against placebos. Offering unproven treatments, they warn, is a violation of medical ethics.
"The [U.S.] clinical trials are ambiguous at the moment," said Dr. David Scadden, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute in Boston. "When these kinds of treatments are proposed, they're being essentially marketed by virtue of the anecdotal report. I feel the danger of exploitation is extremely high."
Riordian also owns a U.S. company that sells nutritional supplements intended to stimulate stem cell production, and he chairs another seeking to commercialize stem cell therapies.