Stem cell therapy advertisements in Nova Scotia ‘unproven,’ experts say

Click to play video: 'Information sessions held in N.S. on new stem cell treatment'
Information sessions held in N.S. on new stem cell treatment
WATCH: Nova Scotians looking for relief from joint pain are being encouraged to attend information session about a new treatment. Alexa MacLean has more – Jun 10, 2019

Television advertisements running in Nova Scotia are inviting people to information sessions hosted by an American company that offers a form of stem cell therapy as a way to treat joint and arthritic pain.

However, one health law and science policy researcher says Health Canada hasn’t approved stem cell therapies and the general public needs to take caution before buying into this new realm of potential health care.

“They are using this exciting area of science, stem cell research, regenerative medicine research, in order to sell an idea that doesn’t really have good evidence behind it,” says Timothy Caulfied, a professor of health law and science policy.

“I think we need better clinical trials. You’re seeing regenerative therapy not just for joint pain but for things like autism and MS. We still need good basic science.”

READ MORE: Unlicensed clinics offering stem cell treatments popping up across Canada: study

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Caulfied says stem cell therapy advertisements are running rampant throughout the nation, and Health Canada recently warned people to take caution before buying into the “hype.”

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“I think we need health-care professional organizations like the College of Physicians and Surgeons to stop their members from operation unproven stem cell therapies,” Caulfield said.

Osteoarthritis is one of the areas the company promotes regenerative medicine as being effective in. It’s also the most common form of arthritis, according to the executive director of Arthritis Nova Scotia.

Susan Tilley-Russell says the province has some of the highest rates of arthritis in the country. The society is investing in stem cell therapy research, but it’s not a current form of treatment they promote.

“Right now, Health Canada has not approved any of the stem cell therapies,” Tilley-Russell said. “The Arthritis Society has been funding a lot of research in the last number of years into stem cells.

“I think the main things that we need to understand is, are they safe, and are they effective. And once those things have been proven, then that’s when Health Canada steps in and can look at the evaluation for use in Canada.”

Caulfield says the realm of regenerative medicine may unlock some new treatments but he cautions that some research studies require further digging.

“Sometimes patients may see studies that have been done. These are generally observational studies, their not well controlled studies. So, they’re just asking patients, ‘how do you feel?’ You know placebo effect can play a big role. Especially when there’s a ‘placebo theater’ when there’s fancy technology and someone in a lab coat and people are paying a lot of money and we know that studies tell us, expensive placebos work better,” he said.

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