Leigh Turner: Stem Cell Clinics Often Oversell Their Services

Prof. Leigh Turner
Monday, August 14, 2017

Prof. Leigh Turner, a faculty member at the Center for Bioethics (a Consortium member), is in the news for his expose of pay-to-participate stem cell studies listed on ClinicalTrials.gov. An article in the Star Tribune outlines the controversy, which has heated up in the aftermath of a Regenerative Medicine paper by Turner in which he questions the legitimacy of many of these trials. According to Turner, "You have these businesses that don’t have meaningful clinical research going on. There is a risk for fraud, in that people may be charged thousands of dollars to get an intervention that has no chance of working." In particular, Turner is concerned about the appearance of a government endorsement, since ClinicalTrials.gov is run by the Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA). Representatives of some of the companies Turner named have threatened litigation, though no suits have been filed. One cosmetic surgeon quoted in the Star Tribune article refutes Turner's argument: "We are not taking public funding and using it to our benefit while pursuing 'scientific' excellence — we’re actually trying to help our patients while learning about the treatments and the disease they have. Frankly, I think this is much more ethical than a major university with billions of endowment dollars taking millions of dollars of taxpayer money so they can build new offices and laboratories to further the study of stem cells."