Over the Memorial Day weekend, the Texas Legislature passed amended HB 810, which allows access to autologous (yours) and allogenic (not your) stem cells. It is landmark legislation in that it is the first state law allowing access to stem cell treatments which are not FDA approved, and which do not fit within the narrow types of autologous stem cell treatments permissible under federal law.
Here is the amended bill awaiting the Governor’s signature. (The Governor has previously tweeted that he’s going to sign it)
Bluntly speaking, the passage of HB 810 means that treatments which are illegal under federal law will be permitted, if given in Texas, at least under Texas state law.
That makes the Texas stem cell law analogous to the medical and recreational marijuana state laws, in that those state laws are in direct conflict with federal law. Another example of state laws in conflict with federal FDA law are the “right to try” laws which allow access to post phase 1 clinical trial drugs outside of FDA approved clinical trials, which is illegal under federal law.
Will the feds try to stop people from getting stem cells in Texas under the Texas law?
My guess is no for a variety of reasons. I don’t think the bill will open-up the floodgates to the kind of single doc small clinics based on the very severe limitations which the amended bill places of facilities and physicians seeking to do these treatments. For reasons which I’ll explain, you’re going to have to be big, well financed and well-connected to open-up a stem cell clinic in Texas which takes full advantage of the Texas law, meaning using cultured/expanded stem cells or umbilical or other allogenic (other people’s) stem cells.
The easy part of complying with the bill
To be eligible to receive stem cells under the bill, you’re going to need a certification from a physician that you have a terminal or chronic, incurable disease. That’s easy, since there are, regrettably, an overabundance of these types of conditions, anything from cancer, to MS, ALS and dozens more incurable diseases.
The patient is going to have to receive “informed consent” and maybe the Texas Medical Board will have a say in that, but that’s easy too. It’s experimental treatment, meaning that it hasn’t been proven by controlled clinical trials to be safe and effective. But these treatments are only going to be available for people with no other hope of cure, so informed consent won’t be much of an issue.
The Hard Part
The amended bill which came from the senate contained three onerous conditions. The first, which basically killed the whole bill, required that the treatments be in compliance with federal law. The whole point of the bill is to allow stem cell treatments not currently permissible under federal law, namely cultured/expanded autologous stems cells and umbilical cord and other types of allogenic stem cells. Fortunately, based on negotiations between the House and Senate, this provision was dropped, and that made the bill at least meaningful and possibly helpful to patients.
However, the House had to accept the other two Senate requirements to get the job done, and these limitations will mean that these type of stem cell treatments will probably only be available at a handful of places in Texas, at least for the foreseeable future. Here are the limitations on access to these treatments under the passed legislation:
1. Where you can get treated
The treatment will only be available at a hospital, medical school or ambulatory surgical center (“ASC”). In other words, you can’t get it at a regular physician’s office. Further, you can forget about getting these treatments at any medical school hospital because none of them (all of which do FDA approved research) are going allow the administration of non FDA approved drugs without FDA approval via the IND approval process (Investigational New Drug application). They get mega bucks from Pharma to do FDA clinical trials, and they’re not going to jeopardize that on so-called “unregulated human experimentation.”
The ASC (ambulatory surgical center) requirement was previously used by the Texas Legislature to eliminate or severely restrict abortions because individual physicians couldn’t afford to turn their offices into ASC level facilities. That might not be as much of a financial barrier in the stem cell arena since stem cell treatments are orders of magnitude more lucrative than abortions (hundreds of dollars versus 20k a pop for stem cells). Still, if a doc wants to provide these services, he/she will have to shell-out a few large, (as in millions) for up-front costs to create an ASC. That won’t be a problem for some of the popular off-shore stem cell clinics which had years to amass war chests awaiting their entry/reentry into the US market. Because of all the money in the field, ultimately, there will be players who will be able to either create ASC’s or partner-up with cash needy hospitals.
2. University or Big Hospital IRB Approval, Oversight and Paperwork Submission
The biggest impediment to unfettered access to unapproved stem cell treatments is that all stem cells under this bill must be given with IRB (Institutional Review Board) approval and oversight from a university/teaching hospital or large hospital IRB. As indicated, I don’t see any University IRBs granting IRB approval for the administration of non FDA approved drugs outside of clinical trials. But per previous, the lure of huge amounts of cash (and all these non FDA approved stem cell treatments are cash treatments) will induce at least some large but cash poor hospitals to try to set up an IRB and partner with or start their own HB 810 stem cell clinics.
The IRB requirement will stop every Tom, Doc and Harry from opening-up strip mall, doc-in-a-box facilities, and that’s probably not a bad thing. But it probably won’t stop the big off-shore or U.S, stem cell players.
Treatment will be expensive because the IRBs are going to have to maintain information about all patients treated and make annual submissions to the Texas Medical Board which takes time and money. The stem cell providers are going to have to give the hospitals and their IRBs their cut, while maintaining their substantial profit margins.
3. Texas Medical Board Approval of IRBs?
The bill allows the Texas Medical Board (TMB) to regulate the IRBs overseeing HB 810 stem cell clinics. I have a crystal ball and I’m getting a very clear picture that the TMB will decide to do so. Wait… I’m also seeing some language. Yes, I see the actual text of the TMB’s regulations of these IRBs. Here is what the TMB’s IRB regulations will look like:
In addition to being affiliated with a university or hospital per the bill, the IRB will also have to be accredited by the Association for the Accreditation Of Human Research Protection Programs, Inc. (AAHRPP) and be registered and qualified under the federal IRB statute (21 CFR part 56) dealing with human experimentation, or some other national accreditation organization recognized by the TMB.
Ok, my crystal ball isn’t that accurate, but I do know how to read the TMB’s current rules. The TMB already regulates IRBs overseeing the use of investigational agents, (Board Rule 198). What I’ve related above is what the TMB currently requires for IRBs supervising investigational agents. There is no reason to think that the Board will do anything other than apply this already existing board rule to stem cells.
4. Physician Compliance with Board Rules
The bill also states that a physician administering stem cell treatments must comply with all applicable medical board rules. That’s alittle vague for my taste. As an experienced Texas Board lawyer, it opens up all kinds of stumbling blocks and pitfalls. But we’ll leave that discussion for another day.
So here it is: Texas is poised to become the first state to allow the use of cultured/expanded stem cells, as well as umbilical and other allogenic tissue products outside of FDA approved clinical trials.
That is very good news for patients with terminal and incurable chronic diseases who chose to assume the risk of “unproven” treatment, (and I personally think this is a basic but heretofore unrecognized right). It’s bad news for the stem cell institutional Mafioso who wants to limit access to these treatment to FDA approved clinical trials.
The patient advocates (and the legislators) deserve a great deal of credit. They did an amazing and almost unbelievable job which will benefit many patients.
But my message to them is that it’s not over yet, even when the Governor signs the bill. The ball will go to the TMB’s court and there are many ways in which this can all go sideways.
So continued vigilance is the watchword.
Still, congrats on a job well done. Patients with incurable diseases owe you big-time.
Rick Jaffe, Esq.