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I’m flattered but this is what the stem cell clinics are up against; To me it’s all about personal freedom

I’m flattered but this is what the stem cell clinics are up against; To me it’s all about personal freedom

I’ve just had the distinct but perhaps questionable honor of being quoted extensively by the Grand Inquisitor of all things unconventional (medicine wise). here is his post:

https://respectfulinsolence.com/2017/11/21/fda-cracks-quack-stem-cell-clinics/

Like M.C. Escher so brilliantly explains in his pictures, it all depends on your perspective, whether you think the the FDA final guidance documents are a good or bad thing.

But, one thing I’ve never been able to figure out about the other side is why the obsession with the stem cell clinics with how much money they are making. 580,000 people a year pay a ton of money in cancer treatment and die in spite of what they spent. Where’s the outrage from the other side for all the money which patients spend on approved but unsuccessful treatments? And that’s just cancer. And what about all the approved treatments which have caused or hastened death, disability or morbidity?

To me it all comes down personal freedom. Why should the FDA, Paul Knoeffler or David Gorsky be able to tell me that I can’t pay someone to remove part of my body which may have some healing power and reimplant it, especially if there is no other treatment available, or the options carry lifestyle or serious morbidity risks. We all get that it hasn’t been blessed by the FDA or the stem cell mafiaoso, but it’s my body. That seems to me to be the core issue. We get that people like you think we’re making a foolish decision. But society lets people do many worse things, like smoking. Maybe it’s time for Congress to get involved, if it can pull itself away from the reality show and start doing the people’s business.

rick jaffe, Esq.
rickjaffeesquire@gmail.com
www.rickjaffe.com

Big Surprise: FDA’s Final Stem Cell Guidelines Threaten the Existence of Stem Cell Clinics

Big Surprise: FDA’s Final Stem Cell Guidelines Threaten the Existence of Stem Cell Clinics

As widely reported yesterday, the FDA finalized the draft guidance documents concerning stem cells, or as the FDA refers to the category broadly, HCT/P’s.

The draft guidance documents proposed a couple years ago made it very hard for what I call unregulated stem cell clinics to operate. Based on recent FDA action against a couple of these clinics (see my prior post at http://rickjaffeesq.com/2017/09/22/sleeping-giant-awakens-fda-starts-final-push-eliminate-practice-medicine-stem-cell-clinics/),the tea leaves weren’t looking good for the FDA loosening-up the rules in the final version. Well, the final documents are out and the feds didn’t (lossen them up). The final guidance documents are at least as bad as the drafts, and in one important respect, worse.

Here is the main guidance document on minimal manipulation and homologous use.
https://pactgroup.net/system/files/GD_HCTs_20171116_UCM585403.pdf

The FDA also issued a final guidance document on same day surgical procedures, but practically speaking, that one is irrelevant, based on the main guidance document. And that’s because, per many of my previous posts, the two critical concepts which determine the legality/illegality of the delivery of HCT/P’s to patients outside of clinical trials are: homologous vs. non homologous use, and more than minimally manipulation (“MMM”).

What’s a Non Homologous Use? Answer: It’s what you’re all doing!

If there is one sentence in the FDA guidance document which sums up the FDA’s position on the use of HCT/P’s by the heretofore unregulated clinics, this is it:

“If an HCT/P is intended for use as an unproven treatment for a myriad of diseases or conditions, the HCT/P is likely not intended for homologous use only.” (Page 15 of “Regulatory Considerations for Human Cell, Tissues, and Cellular and Tissue-Based Products: Minimal Manipulation and Homologous Use”, here is the link again: https://pactgroup.net/system/files/GD_HCTs_20171116_UCM585403.pdf )

To remind you, if the use is non-homologous, (meaning not the same function as from where the HCT/P derived), it’s a drug, requiring the IND/NDA path, and the non-homologous use of which is a violation of the regulation, the law which leads to bad things.

Every unregulated stem cell clinic that I am aware of falls within this FDA statement, and I wouldn’t get my hopes up based on the FDA’s “likely” qualification. If you’re using an HCT/P to cure a disease and it’s not something like hematopoietic cells or bone marrow for blood conditions, blood related cancers, or immune system issues, your use is non-homologous according the guidance documents (draft and final).

When is an HCT/P More than Minimally Manipulated? Answer: Every process used on an HCT/P unless there is scientific proof to the contrary

The nastiest thing in the final guidance document is that the FDA has created in effect an irrebuttable presumption that anytime you do anything to an HCT/P, it’s MMM unless there is information that that the process is minimal manipulation, or as the FDA puts it:

“Please note that if information does not exist to show that the processing meets the definition of minimal manipulation, FDA considers the processing of an HCT/P to be “more than minimal manipulation”, (which basically makes the HCT/P a drug)

For structural tissue like fat, MM is defined by the FDA as “processing that does not alter the original relevant characteristics of the tissue relating to the tissue’s utility for reconstruction, repair, or replacement.”

For sure, when you separate the mesenchymal stem cell (“MSC”) from the adipose substrate, that’s MMM, let alone when the MSC is further processed into something like SVF or some other derivative product.

Prior to the draft guidance documents and even under the draft guidances, you were more or less free to argue that what you were doing to the HCT/P was not changing its relevant characteristics or MMM (more than minimally manipulating it), and then presumably force the FDA to prove that you were. Under the final guidance document, if there’s no “information” that what you’re doing is MM, then it’s not.

What Kind of Information is Needed Exactly?

Frankly, I’m not sure. Part of my uncertainty is there is some fuzziness, in my mind at least, about what are the relevant characteristics, etc. It’s an FDA created concept or administrative conclusion, rather than a biological fact or physical thing like a stem cell or HCT/P. Or it’s a question of where you draws the line. So is there a new business in creating “information” that some process doesn’t alter relevant characteristics?

How broad is the Guidance Document? Answer: Broad enough to cover basically any human tissue used by the unregulated clinics.

The guidance document covers almost every conceivable human tissue except some specific things like vascularized human organs, blood and blood components as listed in the regs, secretions or extracts like milk or other bodily fluids, bone marrow not MMM and a couple other things which are not of interest to the unregulated stem cell clinics. All other human tissue is subject to the guideline and the resulting restrictions. (See footnote 3 of page 2 of the guidance document for the list of excluded products).

So is there any Good News in the Final Guidance Document? Maybe, if you’re a Super Optimist

Perhaps to lessen the sting to the unregulated stem cell clinics, (or more cynically, to give them a false sense of hope), right in the beginning of the guidance document, the FDA says that in some cases it will use its enforcement discretion, and not enforce its interpretation of the regulations for three years to give stakeholders time to decide whether they are in compliance with the law or need to go the IND/NDA route. Later in the document, the FDA lists some factors which it will use to decide who it will not go after during these three years. (See pages 21-22).

The good of it is that autologous use lowers the risk.

The really bad of it is that high on the FDA hit list is non-homologous uses for serious and life threatening diseases and where the HCT/P’s are delivered by “high risk” methods like IV, infusion and some other methods. (See page 21 paragraph V B). The FDA considers the unapproved use of HCT’s for such life threatening conditions particularly nefarious since it might delay patients receiving “safe and effective medical treatment.” That’s an unfunny joke because the main, if not the only reason people seek out HCT/P treatment is because there are no safe and effective treatment for such conditions.

So basically, if you’re using HCT/P’s for curing or mitigating diseases other than blood or immune conditions, I’d say you’re not going to be the beneficiary of the FDA’s enforcement discretion largess.

Does that mean you should expect to receive a visit or letter from the FDA in the next year or three?

Not necessarily. There are hundreds of you clinics out there. It takes a lot of man-hours (sorry, person-hours) by many line investigators and back office federales to do each investigation. The FDA’s resources are insufficient to open up investigations and engage in the process of finding violations for anywhere near the number of clinics out there.

So what’s going to happen?

The FDA will continue with the administrative process of the high profile clinics which it has recently targeted. I think it will start the investigatory process with a few other high visibility clinics, as time and person-power permits. This will reinforce the message that the FDA is out there and remind the clinics that what they are doing is illegal (according to the FDA).

It will probably take almost a year or two before there is a judicial decision on the validity or enforceability of the guidance document. A safe bet is that the FDA will bring an injunction action against one of these clinics for not, in effect, closing. Injunction cases are tried to the judge, not a jury.

If the first case involves the Florida clinic where a nurse practitioner injected eyeballs with HCT/P’s and caused blindness, well you don’t have to have a crystal ball to know the result. Like I say, bad cases make bad law.

It’s going to interesting times for the unregulated stem cell folks.

More to follow.

Rick Jaffe, Esq.
rickjaffeesquire@gmail.com
www.rickjaffe.com

The Sleeping Giant Awakens: The FDA starts its final push to eliminate practice of medicine stem cell clinics

The Sleeping Giant Awakens: The FDA starts its final push to eliminate practice of medicine stem cell clinics

In late August, the FDA issued a trilogy of pubic actions and announcements advancing its goal of shutting down what I’ll call the practice of medicine stem cell clinics (“POM”). These clinics provide autologous stem cells and other autologous tissue or tissue based products which have not been approved by the FDA. These clinics have exploded in popularity over the past dozen years, which has caused the FDA and the stem cell institutional players much angst. The FDA’s efforts to close these clinics started a couple years ago when it sent warning letters and issued four draft stem cell guidance documents which, if followed, would all but eliminate the ability of patients to use their own stem cells for therapeutic purposes. I’ve discussed these guidance documents often and at length. Here are a few:

http://wp.me/p7pwQD-2ohttp://wp.me/p7pwQD-4yhttp://wp.me/p7pwQD-4B
http://wp.me/p7pwQD-4Xhttp://wp.me/p7pwQD-5g
http://wp.me/p7pwQD-5zhttp://wp.me/p7pwQD-64

The guidance documents propose dramatic changes to critical terms, such as what constitutes homologous vs non-homologous use of a stem cell (or other tissue) and the definition of “more than minimal manipulation.” The purpose of these proposed definitional changes is to render illegal most same day autologous therapeutic transplant procedures.

Last September, the FDA held a two-day public comment hearing on the draft guidance documents. Many of the stakeholders on both sides of the issue testified.

Then there was nothing

Since September 2016, there’s been nary a peep out of the FDA. Of course there was the little matter of the election, and the resulting interesting times. In due course, a new FDA commissioner was appointed.

And then the sleeping giant awoke

In late August, the FDA made three dramatic pronouncements, which have the same underlying message: the FDA is going after the POM clinics. Here they are:

1. Warning Letter to Kristina Comella and the US Stem Cell Clinic in Sunrise, Florida
On August 24, 2017, the FDA issued a warning letter to US Stem Cell Clinic in Sunrise, Florida and its head, Kristina Comella.
Here it is:
https://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/2017/ucm573187.htm

Ms. Comella and her clinic had become infamous after an anti-POM clinic New York Times story reported that several patients had gone partially or totally blind as a result of the clinic’s nurse practitioner (NP) injecting the patients’ eyeballs with stem cells (actually a stromal vascular fraction derived from adipose tissue) for therapeutic purposes (macular degeneration). Given these seemingly egregious facts, it was just a matter of time until the feds went after the clinic.

The warning letter had several parts. First, in line with the draft guidance documents, the FDA said that the clinic’s SVF (stromal vascular fraction) was a drug and not exempt from regulation under 21 CFR 1271.15 (see my prior discussions on this regulation listed above).

The FDA’s drug determination had two bases: First, the SVF product was more than minimally manipulated because it altered the relevant characteristics of the adipose tissue (i.e. fat). Second, the use of the fat derived product was “non-homologous” since it was used to treat an eye condition, which is not a homologous use of fat. Thus, the FDA’s conclusion that the product was an unapproved new drug, and not something which is exempt from the FDA’s new drug laws.

The FDA’s other disconcerting finding was that that the clinic was deficient in terms of its CGMP (Current Good Manufacturing Practices) and CGTP (Current Good Tissue Practices) standards, compliance of which is presumably required under federal law. The FDA cited fourteen areas of CGMP and/or CGTP deficiencies.

Based on my experience, it is going to be very hard for a regular medical clinic to be fully CGMP and CGTP compliant. Further, I can’t think of any other examples of types of clinics in which such rigorous standards are applied by the FDA to medical clinics. Also, I have firsthand experience that early on, the FDA took the position that if the 21 CFR 1271.15 exemption criteria are met, the FDA did not have jurisdiction over the procedure or the clinic because it was the practice of medicine. Obviously, the FDA has changed its view.

The warning letter documented the clinic’s impeding the FDA’s inspection, which is never a good idea, since as the FDA pointed out in the warning letter, such actions can administratively transform approved drugs into adulterated ones.

The warning letter acknowledged the clinic’s prior response to these violations (presumably noted in the 483 (i.e. the inspection report issued by FDA inspectors at the conclusion of the inspection)). The clinic argued that it was engaged in the practice of medicine and hence exempt from all FDA drug and inspection requirements. The warning letter rejected the clinic’s contention.

This was the same argument used by the Regenerative Science clinic in Colorado a few years back when it tried to argue that the culturing/expansion of autologous stem cells was the practice of medicine and exempt from federal regulation. Regrettably, the federal court rejected the argument which surely emboldened the FDA in its current mission.

And that brings up an annoying point: Bad Cases Make Bad Law

The Regenerative Science case was a bad case in the sense that under current regulations culturing stem cells seems like more than minimal manipulation. The decision fed the beast, which from my perspective was a bad thing.

The problem with the FDA’s choice of using this particular Florida stem cell clinic is that the case involves nasty, and almost inexplicable facts. A nurse practitioner injecting tissue products into people’s eyeballs! What genius thought that was a good idea, legal though it may be under the Florida scope of practice laws. So when patients were harmed by the NP, the FDA could not have found a better poster child to show the dangers of these unregulated and “illegal” clinics.

My guess is the Florida clinic is not going to roll-over, and will either sue the FDA first (and that case will be dismissed) or wait for the FDA to sue the clinic. It’s going to be a tough job defending the clinic on those facts. If the clinic loses (and there’s a very excellent chance it will), that will be another nail in the coffin in the POM stem cell clinics.

2. FDA Raids California Stem Cell Clinics

Here is the headline from the FDA’s August 28th Press Release involving two California POM clinics:

“FDA acts to remove unproven, potentially harmful treatment used in “stem cell” centers targeting vulnerable patients”

Gulp (or hurray for the FDA, depending on your perspective).

Here is the press release:
https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm573427.htm

According the press release, the clinics were using a live virus vaccine (Vaccinaia Virus Vaccine (Live) on patients, presumably as part of the stem cell or other autologous tissue treatment. The FDA contends that the vaccine is not commercially available and poses a danger to patients. I haven’t heard about the use of this kind of product in processing autologous stem cells, but I’m hoping the clinic has a good explanation, because it will need it.

My guess is that after investigation, the FDA will issue a warning letter/cease and desist, on the grounds that the autologous product which either contains the vaccine or is used to process the material constitutes the FDA trifecta of illegality (introducing into interstate commerce an unapproved new drug, adulteration, and misbranding). I think the FDA may seek to extract a formal cease and desist, then it’s entirely possible that a criminal case will be started, after the civil side is resolved. So watch out you guys!

3. The FDA Commissioner’s public statement

Here is the title of the Commissioner’s August 28th press release:
“Statement From FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. on the FDA’s new policy steps and enforcement efforts to ensure proper oversight of stem cell therapies and regenerative medicine”
Here is the press release:
https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm573443.htm

Here are some of my favorite parts of his statement:

“There are small number of unscrupulous actors who have seized on the clinical promise of regenerative medicine, while exploiting the uncertainty, in order to make deceptive and sometimes corrupt assurances to patients based on unproven and, in some cases, dangerously dubious products. These dishonest actors exploit the sincere reports of the significant clinical potential of properly developed products as a way of deceiving patients and preying on the optimism of patients facing bed illnesses. . . A select few often motivated by greed without regard to responsible patient care, are able to promote unproven, clearly illegal, and often expensive treatments that offer little hope, and, even worse, may pose significant risks to the health and safety of vulnerable patients.”

* * *

Commissioner Gottlieb further stated that while the FDA has taken action recent action against a few of these clinics, “but unfortunately, these are examples of a larger pool of actors who claim that there unproven and unsafe products will address a serious disease, but instead put patients at significant risk. We will seek to take additional actions in the coming months as we address this field, and target those who are clearly stepping over the line, at the same time that they created potential danger to patients.” (Emphasis added by me)

* * *

“I have directed the FDA to launch a new working group to pursue unscrupulous clinics through whatever and legally enforceable means are necessary to protect the public health.”
Double Gulp. The FDA has painted a target on all of the POM stem cell clinics and the Good Dr. Commissioner Gottlieb is not shy about saying so.

What’s next?

1. Expect the Final Guidance Documents soon

It’s been a year since the close of the public comment period on the draft guidance documents, and it’s been almost a month since the FDA issued its trilogy of announcements of its new campaign against the POM stem cell clinics. So I would expect in the next few weeks the FDA to issue the final guidance documents. We already see the big picture: the therapeutic use of stem cells and other tissue or tissue derived products will be regulated as drugs, meaning they will not be exempt under 21 CFR 1271.15. I hope and expect to see some small carve-outs, like for fat for breast reconstruction purposes. I also expect the FDA to clarify and/or reinforce its position that even for exempt uses under 21 CFR 1271.15, CGMP and CGTP regulations apply. That’s bad news for the POM clinics.

2. More FDA Inspections of POM clinics

I suspect that the FDA has obtained a list of the POM stem cell clinics from the authors of the study published on these clinics.

I would expect the FDA to conduct inspections of some of these clinics, to get the message out that the FDA means business. The initial targets will likely be the big, high visibility clinics whose only business is providing stem cells or such products to patients.

It might be a good idea for POM clinics to have an inspection plan in place before the FDA appears at the front door. FDA inspectors don’t have to make an appointment in advance. They just show up and demand entrance.

A relationship with knowledgeable counsel would be a good idea also. If the clinic is using materials imported from outside the U.S., FDA criminal experience would be good and useful in said counsel, because once the importation becomes known to the inspectors, OCI (Office of Criminal Investigations) is likely to get involved.

So what should the POM Clinics and its supporters do?

As stated, preparing for an inspection would be a good start. Warning letters and guidance documents are tricky regulator creatures. I suspect the founding fathers would have been very perplexed that the system they created could conceive such creatures. But alas, they have to be dealt with, and there’s only two ways to deal with them head on: the courts and Congress. Both avenues need to be explored, but more about that another time.

Rick Jaffe, Esq.
rickjaffeesquire@gmail.com
www.rickjaffe.com

ALL’S MOSTLY QUIET ON THE FDA FRONT, but don’t expect that to last now that there’s a New FDA Commissioner

ALL’S MOSTLY QUIET ON THE FDA FRONT, but don’t expect that to last now that there’s a New FDA Commissioner

It seems like forever ago since the FDA’s 2015-2016 attempt to increase its regulatory powers, or more pointedly, since the FDA regulatory thugs have tried to dramatically restrict the personal freedom of US citizens.

The good news is that most of the major proposed changes are still up in the air. The not-so-good news is that now that the FDA has a new commissioner (Scott Gottleib was confirmed by the Senate on April, 27, 2017), I’m expecting things to happen, not all of them good.

Let’s review what’s up in the air/awaiting decision/finalization, but first let me remind you about the FDA’s two main mechanisms by which it increases its power over consumers and companies that provide health care goods:FDA guidance documents and warning letters.

Guidance documents are industry-wide statements of the FDA “current thinking” on a subject. They have a one way force-of-law. The FDA can sue you for doing something in violation of a guidance document, but you can’t sue the FDA about the guidance document because it’s just the “agency’s current thinking on a subject” and so there’s nothing you the consumer or the business person can do about it, at least until you get sued.

A “warning letters” tell a specific company that they’re violating the law and should stop or else. But you can’t sue the FDA to challenge the warning letter because it takes the position that it’s not sure, they might change their mind, it’s not a “final determination” or maybe they’re just kidding. You have to wait until the FDA goes after you.

The first takeaway is that so far, things are still mostly quiet on the FDA front, but as stated, I’d expect that to change with a new FDA commissioner on board.

The Big things up in the air in FDA Land

To recap the FDA’s broad efforts to expand its powers and jurisdiction and where the draft guidelines are awaiting final approval:

1. Stem Cells: The FDA proposed four guidance documents back in the 2015-2016 which would have basically destroyed the U.S. autologous stem cell business for everything from diseases to breast reconstruction after mastectomies. See my post on these guidance documents at: http://rickjaffeesq.com/category/stemcells/

2. Dietary Supplements: The FDA proposed changed via a revised definition of a new dietary ingredient which would have turned many dietary supplements into drugs or would require drug like testing. See my post at: http://rickjaffeesq.com/category/supplements/

3. Compounding pharmacies: new regulations would severely hamper the ability of compounding pharmacists to continue to operate.

If you’re an anti or concerned vaxxer, you already know, Scott’s public comments have been in line with Pharma’s and the rest of the vaccine establishment’s position. Better luck with the CDC.

Now might be an excellent time for the supplement industry and the autologous stem cell industry and its patient supporters to reengage in a federal campaign.

Still it’s not like the FDA has been asleep

So what has the FDA been up to since this year so far?

Probably the best way to get a beat on what the FDA is up to is to review the warning letters it has issued. I’ve done that and here’s what I’ve come up with:
(If you want to look over the FDA recent warning letters yourself, here’s the place:
https://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/2017/default.htm?Page=1)

Supplements have been given scrutiny in the following areas:

Supplements converted into unapproved cancer treatments:

Sometimes the FDA focuses on an issue or problem after receiving a complaint about a violation, then it goes after a bunch of folks violating the law usually on the same day. That happened in on April, 17th when the FDA sent almost a dozen warning letters to supplement makers who were marketing their products as cures or treatments of cancer. That’s a definite no-no in FDA controlled land.

Putting drugs into supplements

Some supplement manufactures have decided that the best way to increase the potency of their products to remedy some condition is by putting in a touch of a drug, or what the FDA calls an “active pharmaceutical ingredient” or “API”). It really kicks-up the product a notch, but of course, it’s illegal. I’ve worked on the issue, and the FDA’s remedies are quite draconian; for starters they make you write to all the customers and refund the money they paid, and do a product recall. And that’s it if you’re lucky. If you’re not or the feds think you did it intentionally, think an indictment on multiple FDA felony counts.

Are you a Good Manufacturer? (And that includes you distributors and resellers)

Supplement manufacturers have to manufacture their products in accordance with current good manufacturing practices (CGMP). It’s onerous but it’s the cost of doing business. Lately the FDA has sent a bunch of warning letters to supplement manufacturers complaining of lack of compliance with a lot of the technical and paperwork requirements. The surprising part of this area of regulatory law is that the downstream distributors and resellers also have quite significant regulatory obligations to ensure CGMP compliance and/or quality control. I’ve seen supplement distributors hung out to dry for very specific and somewhat onerous regulations.

Compounders Get unwanted attention

Even though the draft compounding guidelines are still pending, that hasn’t stopped the FDA from issuing warning letters to a few compounders. Things should really pick up for the FDA once the guidance documents are finalized.

So in short,
the FDA has been continuing to do what it is always does, which is some combination of protecting the public and interfering with the rights of consumers. How much of one versus the other depends on what your core beliefs or main issues are. But still, with these three big areas with pending draft guidelines (stem cells, dietary supplements and compounding), now that there is a new FDA commissioner, I’d look for some resolution of these big open issues in the next few months.

From all accounts, the new Commissioner is very friendly with Pharma and wants to see the drug approval process streamlined and shortened which will be good for Pharma. Don’t look for any help from him on the vaccine safety issue. The jury is still out on him on stem cells and supplements, but I don’t see much reason for optimism, unless there is a continued public outcry for access to more information about supplements and more access to our own body parts.

Here’s to hoping, (and maybe some doing).

Rick Jaffe, Esq.
rickjaffeesquire@gmail.com

Game Changing the Stem Cell Debate

Game Changing the Stem Cell Debate

It’s been almost a month since the FDA’s two day hearing on the draft guidance documents on autologous stem cells. Here is the short version of what happened:

The stem cell research industry, meaning the basic scientists and academic physicians employed at big institutions, and their acronym organizations like the draft guidances. They agree with the FDA that non-homologous, (roughly meaning therapeutic as opposed to replacement) autologous (i.e. my) stem cells (or any kind of autologous tissue or “HCT/P’s”) should only be available in clinical trials until the FDA grants marketing approval for some use. (What happens after approval, in terms of off-label use, is anyone’s guess).

Those institutional players cited four cases of harm to patients. Three were at one clinic where a non-physician injected stem cells into the eyes of the patients which resulted in loss of vision. The other case was someone who took stem cell tourism to the extreme, continent-hopping and injecting every manner of autologous and allogenic stem cells for his degenerative condition.

Testifying on the other side were clinicians providing non-homologous, autologous stem cell treatments to patients. These clinicians have treated or spoke about the tens of thousands of patients who have received various forms of therapeutic HCT/P treatment under the soon-to-be extinct practice of medicine exception (21 CFR 1271.15).

And then there were the HCT/P patients, many with life threatening, incurable or life altering conditions. They all testified in support of Americans having access to their own HCT/P’s in the U.S. It was heart wrenching and uplifting to hear their stories. I couldn’t begin to do justice to their plight and the power of their words, so I won’t try.

But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about dealing the FDA on access to treatment issues, it’s that the government doesn’t really care about actual patients or even future patients, due to its deep concern about PUBLIC HEALTH and THE SAFETY OF THE PUBLIC, which are sort of like Platonic ideals, and which have only the faintest connection to actual patients and reality.

Powerful as it was, I don’t think the testimony of these patients will change the FDA’s mind on the core issue of a person’s access to his/her own body parts.

There were over six thousand public comments submitted to the FDA after the hearing. However, that’s orders of magnitude too small to make an impact on the FDA.

So after pondering the hearings, I feel like what Roy Scheider felt and expressed when he finally saw JAWS up close: “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Between the media, which has been harpooning all these unregulated stem cell clinics, and the stem cell research industry’s greenlighting the draft guidance documents, we’re gonna need a bigger boat.

The bigger boat has to be a vehicle to reach a lot more people, like many tens of millions. Social media itself can’t do it.

To me, the obvious solution is a documentary. I’ve recently seen Vaxxed. These guys are now on a bus tour all across America. The documentary and the tour is having an impact, and that’s in spite of the fact that Andy Wakefield is a very controversial fellow who has been excoriated in the media.

I was involved in a couple of the documentaries about Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski. He’s also a very controversial fellow and gets a great deal of negative press. Nonetheless, the director/producer made a deal with the cable companies which resulted in the Burzynski documentary being available to something like 40 million cable viewers. Now those are the kind of numbers I’m talking about!

I think the right kind of documentary focusing on the patients and not having a polarizing protagonist could avoid some of the special challenges facing the producers of the two aforementioned documentaries. If done right, it could spark the interest of tens of millions who themselves or their family members are dealing with serious unresolvable medical conditions.

I have to believe that in the stem cell patient community there are media insiders, power players, and even celebs who support access to these treatments and would be willing to help. I also have the feeling that the money to make it happen would show-up.

The stem cell clinical community needs a game changer.

You know what they say: “Go big or go home.”

Rick Jaffe, Esq.
www.rickjaffe.com
rickjaffeesquire@gmail.com

More about the FDA stem cell hearings at:
http://rickjaffeesq.com/category/stemcells/

FDA Stem Cell Meetings Close at Hand: Stakeholders on Both Sides are Worried, but One Side Should be Really Worried.

FDA Stem Cell Meetings Close at Hand: Stakeholders on Both Sides are Worried, but One Side Should be Really Worried.

Next Monday and Tuesday, September 12 and 13th is a widely acknowledged big day in the stem cell world; it’s the two day public hearing on the FDA’s four draft guidance documents.  (Here is a link to the FDA’s announcement. http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/NewsEvents/WorkshopsMeetingsConferences/ucm462125.htm.  The entire event will be live broadcast via a link on this FDA page.

The draft guidances are a big deal because, as I’ve said before,  http://rickjaffeesq.com/2016/04/21/stemcells/,  they will make illegal almost all autologous cell transplants outside of FDA approved clinical trials, including the ever popular stem cell transplants from adipose tissue.   It’s been reported that there might be over 500 U.S. clinics physicians/clinics doing some form of autologous stem cell transplants for a wide variety of conditions, so you can bet that this new industry is watching closing and worrying. They have plenty to worry. Let’s start with what’s out there.

 

The lines are drawn 

For at least the past year, there has been what I would call an institutional attack on the clinical use of autologous stem cells, and by that I mean the use of autologous stem cells outside of FDA approved clinical trials. Thought leading papers, especially the New York Times have run articles against the stem cell clinics both here and abroad. The most recent article, in July, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/28/upshot/stem-cell-therapies-are-still-mostly-theory-yet-clinics-are-flourishing.html?_r=0  seemed more like a retweet or bump of an article by one of the main anti-stem cell talking heads, Paul Knoepfler, a PhD who works at U C Davis.  Just google “stem cells and false hope” and see what comes up. Knoepfler published an article which is the source of the now widely reported 500 or 600 plus clinics in the United States performing autologous stem cell transplants outside of clinical trials.  But other news media outlets have also taken up the call to ban the clinical use of stem cells until they go through the complete drug approval process. http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/stem-cell-treatments-false-hope-warning-signs

Apart and together with the media outcry are ethicists and public policy position papers decrying the unregulated stem cell business.  (Here is one from the Texas Baker Institute http://bmcmedethics.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12910-015-0069-x ).

The knock on the clinical stem cell business is that it is unproven and untested and hence might be dangerous or ineffective and shouldn’t be given outside of clinical trials until proven safe and effective. This is same criticism leveled against the “right to try” state and federal legislative initiatives. (See my post on the federal right to try:: http://rickjaffeesq.com/2016/05/24/federal-right-try-hopefully-not/ ‎

 

Maybe the Really Important Meeting Is Not What We Think It Is

What hasn’t received as much attention from the stakeholders is the stem cell workshop which will take place tomorrow. Thursday September 8th which I think will be as or more important.  http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/NewsEvents/WorkshopsMeetingsConferences/ucm518541.htm.

This workshop will be presentations from the scientific/policy/ethics luminaries and thought leaders. From what I can tell, none of them are directly involved in the clinical use of stem cells beyond what is in accordance with FDA approved use. My guess is that all of the speakers are against the clinical use of stem cells except in clinical trials, and until they pass through the full approval process.

The two lectures  I’m most interested in hearing about are : Jonathan Kimmelman, PhD, Ethics, Evidence, and Regulatory Approval for Cell-Based Interventions and  Massimo Dominici, MD, Dissecting Unproven Cellular Therapies: The International Society for Cellular Therapy (ISCT) Position.

 

My guess is that, consistent with the talking heads in the past media articles, their conclusion will be that it’s unethical and dangerous to allow the unregulated use of autologous stem cell transplants outside of clinical trials and before FDA approval.

 

Why this is important is because I think the FDA is going to cite the workshop position papers as a reason to make the draft guidance documents final without substantial changes. And these speeches will justify the FDA’s position to make adipose stem cell transplants illegal outside of clinical trials.

 

Why do I think that’s going to happen? Well first the obvious. That’s the import of the draft guidelines and the FDA has had a few years to think about the problem. The problem is that the originally thought-to-be tiny regulatory loophole in 21 CFR 1271.15 (which says that autologous same day procedure transplants aren’t regulated by the FDA) has mushroomed into an entire industry with all kinds of wild west claims and with virtually no barriers to entry stopping any doc from cashing in. That has the FDA very, very nervous.

 

But beyond the obvious and the din of media and institutional based criticism of the field, there is a broader FDA context, which I am aware of because I do a lot of stuff beyond stem cells.

Let’s look at two other big things the FDA is working on right now.

 

FDA tries to tame the Wild West of Dietary Supplements

 

A month ago, the FDA released its long awaited revised draft guidance on dietary supplement NDIs (New Drug Ingredients).  The guidance document is highly restrictive and, if enacted, will severely limit access to dietary supplements.  (See my recent blog on this http://rickjaffeesq.com/2016/08/16/maybe-glass-still-less-half-full-water-might-start-leaking/

The FDA’s concerns about supplements is basically the same as its concerns with stem cells, namely unsubstantiated claims for products which haven’t been adequately tested for safety and efficacy.  The proposed solution: make supplements with “new dietary ingredients” (broadly defined) subject to rigorous testing. Sound familiar?

 

Pharmacy Compounders Get Unwanted Federal Attention

 

Second, in 2012, a compounding pharmacy literally killed over 60 people from a contaminated batch of a compounded product. Up until that time, compounders were largely unregulated by the FDA and were overseen by the state pharmacy boards. But many compounders were blurring the lines between a compounded drug for patients and drug manufacturing.

 

As a result of the outcry over these deaths, there were congressional hearing, new legislation, new regulations, and proposed draft guidances. Bottom line. Increased regulation and scrutiny of these pharmacies by the FDA. This example is different from the NDI supplement and stem cell guidance documents in that there was actual severe harm, but it still shows that if the FDA believes there is an abuse and a regulatory vacuum, they will regulate.

 

Of course, autologous stem cells are different from supplements or compounded drugs for the obvious reason that the source is the person’s own body, which presumably eliminates contamination from the source issues. But it doesn’t address the claims issue which I think is at the heart of the FDA’s and institutional opposition to the clinical use of stem cells. And admittedly, there are probably still some safety issues, and most likely some training issues, because anyone with a valid medical license can become a stem cell transplanter, and it’s a lot easier logistically than doing brain surgery which requires a real surgical center. In fact, stem cell transplants are commonly done in regular medical offices. Some might view that as not a good thing.

 

Perhaps interestingly, in the 1997 FDA modernization act, there were advertising restrictions placed on compounders as a compromise solution, but those restrictions were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.  (Western Stateshttp://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/PharmacyCompounding/UCM155167.pdf.  Because of Western States, my guess is that the FDA is not going to offer a compromise by limiting stem cell advertising because of its past negative experience.

 

For all these reasons, I think the FDA’s mind in pretty much made up. Tomorrow’s stem cell workshop will provide a nice piece of cover, and I expect it to be relied upon by the FDA when the final guidance documents come out.

 

The FDA has to give stakeholders the right to comment, but there’s no law that says the FDA has to really listen.

 

Circling back to the dietary supplement NDI draft guidance document, the original one came out many years ago, but due to the enormous public outcry complaining about them, the original draft guidance was rescinded. That bought the field many years of a guidance free existence. Sometimes that’s about as good as you can get, and I think with the stem cell draft guidance documents, that’s as good a strategy as any I’ve heard.

 

 

Rick Jaffe, Esq.