21st Century Snake Oil: Stem Cells and Platelet Rich Plasma

In the 19th century, purveyors of snake oil elixirs purported their potions would treat a variety of complaints. Rheumatism, kidney issues, and even “female problems’ were all treatable by these cure-all potions.
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The creation of the FDA (Pure Food and Drug Act 1906) under President Teddy Roosevelt should have put an end to such unsupported medical claims that defrauded the consumer. Yet today modern scientific terminology is being used to market creams and even invasive procedures without scientific studies to prove they work.

The Truth About Platelet Rich Plasma

Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) is being touted as a fountain of youth. Platelets are cells produced in the bone marrow that are essential in forming blood clots. PRP is derived by drawing a patient’s blood and spinning it in a centrifuge to separate the portion containing the platelets. There is no requirement to check the actual concentration of platelets in the PRP.

Procedures developed by an internist in Alabama, (who was previously cited by the Alabama Board of Medicine for improperly prescribing estrogen and thyroid hormone) use PRP injections to perform nonsurgical face-lifts, breast lifts, and treat both “male and female problems”.

Taking a page from the snake oil salesmen (snake oil was also called “patent medicine”), the creator of the “P” (PriapusTM) shot for male enhancement, “O-shotTM” (Orgasm) for vaginal dysfunction, the Vampire Breast LiftTM, and Vampire Face-LiftTM has trademarked the terms. He then sells licenses to doctors, nurses, or others to use the names for PRP injections for $997 (to join the American Cosmetic Cellular Medicine Association which he created) along with a $97 monthly fee. For a mere additional $4897 the doctor or nurse can learn the technique directly from the creator himself in a 1½-day course.

So how do these “procedures” work? Quoting from the inventor’s website (vampirebreastlift.com), “first the injector (1) isolates growth factors from the patient’s blood (italics in the original). (2) When these growth factors enter the breast (injected by the physician), then multi-potent stem cells become activated to grow new tissue. This new tissue includes collagen, new fatty tissue (for smoothness), and new blood vessels (for a healthy glow). These growth factors work like magic to cause increased collagen & new blood flow. (3) Injecting the Magic into Your Breast…These growth factors then activate multipotent stem cells already in the skin.”

FDA Regulations to Come

The FDA has announced that the era of unregulated and unsubstantiated claims for stem cells is coming to an end. The Agency is holding hearings in April 2016 to develop new regulations to protect patients from practitioners who use scientific terms to lure unwary consumers.