The watchdog for clinical practice contends that fraudulent practices are on in the name of 'stem cell therapy'. "Unfortunately clinicians have started exploiting patients," said Dr VM Katoch, secretary, department of health research and director general of the council.
Presently, many claims are made about how stem cell treatment can cure various disorders - hair loss, diabetes, cancer and others.
"Guidelines for stem cell research and therapy were issued in 2007. We revised the 2007 guidelines in which the word 'therapy' has been dropped," said Dr Katoch.
The new guidelines emphasise that stem cells are still not part of prevailing standard treatment procedure. Dr Katoch said that the term 'therapy' cannot be used as its efficacy is not yet proven.
The council, in its latest guideline, has stated that any use of stem cells in patients besides approved clinical trials will be malpractice. "It is hoped this clear definition helps curb the malpractice of stem cell 'therapy' offered as a new tool to cure untreatable diseases," said Dr Katoch, adding that stem cell use must now be done in patients only within the purview of an approved and monitored clinical trial with intent to advance science and medicine.
The council also warns a physician/scientist engaged in stem cell research to avoid any activity leading to unnecessary hype or unrealistic expectation in people's minds about stem cell treatment.
The council has also stated that there are ethical concerns about promotional advertisements by private banks which offer storage of cord blood for possible future use. "Such advertisements are often misleading and lack proper information to the consumer... There is no scientific basis for preservation of cord blood for future self-use and this practice is not recommended," said dr Katoch.
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