Why isn’t your rheumatologist suggesting stem cells?

A few weeks ago I mentioned that Tanya’s rheumatologist, Dr. Forouzesh, had told me about an upcoming Frontiers of Rheumatology symposium that was coming up [at the end of April] in Marina del Rey at the Marriott Hotel. I decided that I would attempt to get a media pass so I could learn a little more about what is being talked about in the profession with regards to Rheumatoid Autoimmune Disease. I will admit, it took a little doing; and while Dr. Furst, one of the co-chairs of the event, gave the okay to my attendance, if I had not followed up no one was going to tell me. When I called to follow up I was informed that I could come, however, I could not bring my camera, I had to sit in the back of the room and I could ask no questions. I was not going to let a little thing like having my hands tied hang me up, so I made plans to go out to Marina del Rey over the weekend.

the Marriott, Marina del Rey, CA

Frontiers of Rheumatology Symposium at the Marriott Marina del Rey

Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to the early morning sessions on Friday due to a major plumbing issue at home. When I attempted to enter for what I thought was perhaps a Q&A and discussion on RA treatments after their lunch break, I was told I could not attend afternoon sessions. One session I really wanted to attend was called Measuring RA Outcomes: Big Brother is Watching. I hoped that perhaps stem cell therapy might have been mentioned. I have a feeling it was not.

Saturday morning I got up early and headed back over to the Marriott. I attended sessions on pain management and different therapies that are “coming down the pike.” As I listened to the speakers and looked through the program I had been given, I was not too surprised to hear that all the treatments were drugs. After all, with sponsors like Actelion, Amgen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gilead and Janssen you can not really expect to hear about something like adult stem cells that might have long term remissions at little cost. I think what really surprised me was when I asked one of the representatives manning a display booth at the conference if I could take a photo of their booth, I was told they did not want any publicity like that.

While I may have hoped to hear someone mention alternative treatments either for pain management or Rheumatoid Autoimmune Disease itself; the closest thing to alternative medicines was a question about the use of Cannabis for pain. Dr. Forouzesh approached me and asked if I had heard anyone mention bone marrow transplants (I reminded him we were investigating adult stem cell therapy, not bone marrow transplants) and I admitted that I had not heard anything that day. His response, “exactly.” When I suggested that I did not expect to hear doctors speaking about alternative treatments at a conference sponsored by drug companies, he excused himself. Since he had told us that he would ask about adult stem cells at the conference, I was interested in knowing if he actually did. At Tanya’s visit last week I asked him if he had. He told me he asked Dr. Furst, the co-chair of the symposium and Professor of Rheumatology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and apparently Dr. Furst “laughed it off.” So why is that?

I admit, due to listening to Tanya discuss her findings combined with my own research, I have some preconceived notions, but I will attempt to leave my biases behind. There are givens, such as the fact that there is very little money to be made coming up with a cure for RAD, but I do not think anyone is suggesting that stem cells are going to bring about a cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis. What we have found is that adult stem cell therapy brings about long term remission. When you consider that it costs close to $3,000 a month in medications that really do little towards bringing about remission; and compare that to the most expensive stem cell treatment center we found at $15,000 for up to 10-20 years of remission, it becomes easy to see why a pharmaceutical company might be a little hesitant in promoting this kind of treatment. The thing is, Dr. Furst is a professor at UCLA and UCLA does a lot of stem cell research. In fact, the State of California gave UCLA more than $49 million in grants for stem cell research. That is no laughing matter.

Tanya sent me a link a while back, showing that as of July, 2009 there were 1,434 stem cell patents. Since it has been close to three years since they updated their site, I decided to go to the US Patent and Trademark office website and do a search for “adult stem cells.” There was a result of 637 patents. Since this did not seem to come close to what I expected to see, I refined the search to just “stem cell;” sure enough, this provided 20,119 results. When I refined the search even further to include just those evil embryonic stem cells, there were 7,531 results. Most certainly, stem cells are being researched here and monies are being spent; so why all the negativity? It seems rather simple, the pharmaceutical companies are waiting for their patents to be approved and implemented.

When speaking with Dr. Forouzesh last week he started looking through the documentation Tanya had provided during her previous visit. I could see that he was just scanning the articles as if it was the first time seeing them. While reading one of them, he said that for a study to be thorough they needed 800 test results; the paper he was reading only mentioned a few. The thing is, it was an older article and there are many places outside of the United States that have done thousands of stem cell treatments with amazing results. They treat dogs that have Rheumatoid Arthritis with stem cells; why not people?

In our research we learned that there were issues with stem cell treatments; especially embryonic stem cells since it required chemotherapy prior to introducing the foreign stem cells. The chemo, as it is prone to do, caused more trouble than it prevented. Luckily, times have changed. They have discovered adult stem cells which can be taken from the fat of the RA patient, then reintroduced to the patient with great success. No chemo, no rejection from donors. Further research seems to indicate that adult stem cells can be taken from one person and given to another, with little to no danger. Four days ago, UCLA discovered two adult stem cell-like subpopulations in adult human skin.

So, back to the first question; why is your rheumatologist not suggesting stem cell therapy? Simple, it is too cheap and the patents have not been implemented. The FDA wants to regulate your body. They are not allowing you to take stem cells from your body and put them back in. They want to treat stem cells from your own body as if it is a foreign substance. The FDA and pharmaceutical companies are not there for your benefit; their primary concern is the stockholders of the drug companies. Nothing more.

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