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Dec 2, 2019

Clinic pitches unproven treatments to desperate patients, with tips on raising the cash

Caution please beware clinics stating that they have a cure: The FDA has not approved most stem cell treatments and has said it considers many of them illegal.

By William Wan and Laurie McGinley Dec. 1, 2019 at 8:41 p.m. EST

By the time he called the Lung Health Institute, Ed Garbutt was desperate. The Dallas computer parts salesman could barely walk the length of his house without gasping for breath. Unable to work, Garbutt, 64, was going broke paying for trips to the emergency room.

Lung Health Institute staffers were reassuring, Garbutt recalled, telling him that more than 80 percent of their patients with lung disease said they found relief through their stem cell treatments — which would cost him $5,500, thanks to a summer sale. He said they told him that if he didn’t have the money, he could get it other ways, like fundraising on GoFundMe.

So Garbutt raised $1,500 in donations, tapped the last of his savings and charged the rest on his credit card. “I spent every dime I had,” he said, “hoping it would make a difference.”ADADVERTISING

Over the past decade, hundreds of clinics have sprouted across the United States selling stem cell therapies for incurable conditions like Garbutt’s lung disease, Parkinson’s disease and macular degeneration. But often, patients say, the only thing affected is their finances.

Former patients of the Tampa-based Lung Health Institute said they were encouraged to take out bank loans or borrow money from family members. Some withdrew from their retirement accounts and took up church offerings. Others borrowed against their homes.

“What they’re doing is taking a predatory approach to people with progressive, fatal diseases,” said Gregory Cosgrove, chief medical officer for the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. His foundation issued a warning this year against such stem cell therapies, noting that desperate patients continue to “succumb to an onslaught of marketing and branding.”AD

Even in a booming industry long denounced by medical experts, the Lung Health Institute has been singled out for its aggressive marketing and unproven claims. In 2015, for example, pulmonologists at Johns Hopkins wrote to the Food and Drug Administration urging it to take action against the Lung Health Institute. “We would ask that the FDA take necessary action to prevent the further advertising of this unproven treatment,” their letter read.

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Source: Washington Post

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