Stem cell therapies for ocular diseases often are of unproven efficacy and may result in vision loss, notes one surgeon.
Reviewed by Thomas A. Albini, MD
Stem cell technology is a rapidly growing, highly lucrative industry serving thousands of patients. With the opportunities it can present, people with nefarious intentions will seek to take advantages of patients with chronic diseases who are looking for a glimmer of hope. However, ophthalmologists are warning that the booming industry, which promises better health, including improved vision, can leave patients disappointed, frustrated, and in worse condition after the treatments.
According to Thomas A. Albini, MD, businesses have opened their doors to target patients with macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and retinitis pigmentosa with sophisticated TV ads that tout expensive stem cell treatments. One company provides a customized stem cell eye drop using autologous stem cells for treating end-stage glaucoma.
The drops cost $5,000 per bottle and when questioned, the company told Dr. Albini that the more months of therapy the patient had the better and no data supports the treatment. Dr. Albini, professor clinical ophthalmology, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami, said he began to focus on the industries after two patients came to his practice after undergoing stem cell treatments for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) at a Broward County, FL, clinic.
Thomas A. Albini, MD
E: [email protected]
This article was adapted from a presentation by Dr. Albini at the 2018 American Association of Ophthalmology meeting. Dr. Albini has no fi nancial interest in any aspect of this report.