Google has announced a new Healthcare and Medicines policy whereby clinics offering 'unproven or experimental medical techniques' will not be allowed to advertise on the platform.
The policy will cover most stem cell and gene therapies, and follows a recent campaign by the FDA to take action against clinics offering unapproved stem cell treatments (see BioNews 949 and 916), as well as reports of patients being harmed by unregulated treatments (see BioNews 893).
'This new policy will prohibit ads selling treatments that have no established biomedical or scientific basis. The new policy also includes treatments that are rooted in basic scientific findings and preliminary clinical experience, but currently have insufficient formal clinical testing to justify widespread clinical use,' said a Google blog post.
According to the Washington Post, clinics have been advertising stem cell treatments for a wide range of conditions including multiple sclerosis and ALS (motor neurone disease) as well as more common conditions including macular degeneration and arthritis. The treatments often cost US$10,000-20,000 and there are concerns that vulnerable patients are being exploited.
Advertising for participants to take part in properly regulated clinical trials will still be permitted, as will advertising aimed at communicating scientific findings to the public.
Google worked with The International Society for Stem Cell Research to develop the new policy.
'While stem cells have great potential to help us understand and treat a wide range of diseases, most stem cell interventions remain experimental and should only be offered to patients through well-regulated clinical trials,' said the society's president, Professor Deepak Srivasteva.
'The premature marketing and commercialisation of unproven stem cell products threatens public health, their confidence in biomedical research, and undermines the development of legitimate new therapies.'