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Google bans ads for 'unproven' treatments from stem cell clinics

16 September 2019
Appeared in BioNews 1015

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.'

A new policy on advertising for speculative and experimental medical treatments
Google Ads |  6 September 2019
Dangerous results from unproven stem cell treatments led to Google ad ban
The Verge |  11 September 2019
Google finally bans dangerous miracle cure ads
Futurism |  10 September 2019
New Google policy bars ads for unproven stem cell therapies
Washington Post |  6 September 2019
1 October 2018 - by Martha Henriques 
A total of 30 Canadian businesses have been found to provide untested and potentially unsafe stem cell treatments in a recent study...
21 May 2018 - by Lone Hørlyck 
Crowdfunding campaigns to raise money for stem cell treatments tend to exaggerate potential benefits while understating potential risks of the interventions, suggests a new study...
14 May 2018 - by Paul Waldron 
The US Food and Drug Administration is seeking to shut down two clinics offering treatments based on stem cells...
4 September 2017 - by Rikita Patel 
The US Food and Drug Administration intends to investigate the use of unproven stem cell therapies being offered in the country's clinics...
2 May 2017 - by Cathal Farrell 
The ability of stem cells to divide into different mature cell types has ignited the field of regenerative medicine. Stem cells promise to repair and regenerate damaged or diseased tissues without the need for orthodox medical or surgical interventions. However, there is disparity between the expectations held by the general public and some medical professionals versus the reality of the emerging clinical evidence...
Comment ( - 18/09/2019)
I learned that Payton Manning the former NFL football player had stem cell treatments done in Europe it cost a lot how ever they worked the point I would like to make is why American doctors and clinics as well as the FDA are not looking into why over there they are treating people with successful results and learn from them then bring that back to the USA so then all these no good stem cell clinics can learn the the right way to treat people and stop ripping them off and after more than 15 years of waiting maybe I can get cured for my 20/400 vision in my left eye.It seams to me a lot of money is going to waste when the cure could be right at our front door.Thank You
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