The regulator filed permanent injunctions in federal court last week against the clinics for marketing unapproved stem cell products and for failing to comply with manufacturing guidelines.
FDA Commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb said: 'The FDA will continue to take enforcement actions against clinics that abuse the trust of patients and endanger their health with inadequate manufacturing conditions or by purporting to have treatments that are being manufactured and used in ways that make them drugs under the existing law but have not been proven safe or effective for any use.'
The US Stem Cell Clinic LLC of Sunrise, Florida, was sent a warning letter from the FDA in August last year about its unapproved stem cell treatments. The current injunction is being sought for the clinic's failure to 'address the violations outlined' and 'come into compliance with the law'.
The other clinic, the California Stem Cell Treatment Centre and affiliates, was the subject of a raid by US marshals in August last year, when five vials of a vaccine against smallpox were seized. These vaccines were being used to create an unapproved stem cell product for administration to cancer patients.
Both clinics were using patients' own fat tissues to produce the unapproved treatments. The FDA said there was evidence that both were failing to follow good manufacturing techniques to ensure sterility, which could put patients at risk of infection.
Three patients lost their sight in 2015 after material extracted from their fat (so-called stromal vascular fraction) was injected into their eyes at the US Stem Cell Clinic in an attempt to treat degenerative eye conditions (see BioNews 893).
According to the Washington Post, Dr Kristin Comella, chief scientific officer of the US Stem Cell Clinic, said in a statement: 'I remain steadfast that no government agency should deprive individuals of their right to harness the cells that exist in their body.'
The FDA said it has aimed to strike a balance between allowing safe and legitimate stem cell therapies to be pursued and approved, while also protecting the public from unproven and potentially hazardous treatments and the clinics supplying them. 'We support sound, scientific research and regulation of cell-based regenerative medicine, and the FDA has advanced a comprehensive policy framework to promote the approval of regenerative medicine products,' said Dr Gottlieb.
Greater control over such clinics by the FDA has been urged before (see BioNews 820). However, some fear that the scale of the issue means that this regulation will not be effective. Dr Peter Marks, director of the FDA's Centre for Biologics Evaluation and Research, told the New York Times: 'There are hundreds and hundreds of these clinics. We simply don't have the bandwidth to go after all of them at once.'