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The Stem Cell Hard Sell: Report from a Clinic's Patient Recruitment Seminar


SummaryThe growing direct-to-consumer, stem cell clinic industry in the U.S. uses a number of strategies for patient recruitment, including self-styled educational seminars, which may reach thousands of members of the public annually. Here I report on a first-hand experience at such a seminar that I recently attended. Numerous specific medical claims were made at the seminar: no potential for rejection; no side effects, including no pain; proven efficacy for a variety of conditions, including in particular arthritis and pain; and U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. I discuss the potential impact of these kinds of seminars on the public and on the stem cell field.This article focuses on the strategies used to recruit patients via for-profit stem cell clinic seminars and the marketing claims made as well as the impact on the public and the stem cell translational medicine field. Although the field is very aware of the existence of such seminars, this piece is significant and novel for reporting first-hand on the specific factual details of one such seminar. Stem cell clinics conducting such self-described stem cell educational seminars use a number of marketing strategies to recruit customers and make specific testable medical claims, which may, in some instances, misinform the public and potentially pose a threat to the stem cell field. Potential ways to address this growing challenge are discussed.

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