Those hospitals and medical institutions advertising treatment of incurable diseases with stems cells are now under scanner of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The ministry has already processed complaints against at least 23 website advertisements.
The National Apex Committee for Stem Cell Research and Therapy (NACSCRT), under the Indian Council of Medical Research, has looped in Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) to monitor advertisements that claim to fully cure patients with stem cell based therapies.
Several clinics and organisations advertise stem cell therapies whose safety and efficacy are not proven, to attract vulnerable patients. As per the National Guidelines for Stem Cell Research 2013, stem cell therapy has not been proven effective other than in Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT) for haematological disorders (disorders which primarily affect the blood).
NAC-SCRT has observed that several clinicians, companies, hospitals advertise stem cell based therapies other than haematopoietic stem cell transplantation for haematological disorders on their websites. Officials clearly say that these therapies are currently investigational and must be conducted only within the scope of clinical trials.
Dr. Alok Srivastava, Chairman, NAC-SCRT said, "Advertisements claiming to offer stem cell-based therapies other than Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantations for blood diseases are in violation of the clause 10.3.1 of the National Guidelines for Stem Cell Research-2013."
"Use of stem cells for any other purpose outside the ambit of clinical trials will be against these guidelines and is hence not permissible. We have asked ASCI to review such advertisements and are happy that action has been initiated against 23 such websites. It is necessary that such misleading advertisements be removed and action be taken against the defaulters unless they are suitably modified to clarify the unproven nature of these therapies and are only offered within approved clinical trials. The NAC-SCRT will be reviewing the developments in the field and modifying its position with regard to proven therapies from time to time," he added.
As stem cell-based therapies are currently experimental, advertising these for results not approved by regulatory authorities is in violation of Chapter III of the ASCI code for Self-Regulation of Advertisements. "The code requires that advertisements should not propagate products or services, the use of which is banned under the law," said Narendra Ambwani, Chairman, ASCI.