The UK's General Medical Council (GMC) has ruled that a UK-registered doctor has exploited a number of vulnerable patients who have multiple sclerosis, offering unproven treatments using stem cells not suitable for human use.
Dr Robert Trossel, who operates a clinic in Rotterdam but who registered with the GMC in 1992 and has consulting rooms in London, saw nine patients in the Netherlands who travelled from the UK in the hope of seeking treatment. The GMC panel, however, said that Dr Trossel had exaggerated the success rates of the treatment which was based upon 'anecdotal and aspirational information' and had only been tested on animals. The treatment was stopped in 2007 after Dutch authorities introduced new regulation.
Dr Trossel entered into a licensing agreement with Biomark, which later became Advanced Cell Therapeutics (ACT), to provide stem cell treatments. ACT's South African owners were later investigated by the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for providing unproven therapies. The hearing came after an undercover reporter working on behalf of BBC Newsnight investigated the clinic's operations and claimed they were offered therapies involving stem cells derived for the laboratory and not intended for human use.
In giving evidence, Dr Trossel told the GMC that the treatments were 'worth a try' but the panel concluded that it was 'unjustifiable on the basis of available scientific of clinical medical evidence'. The GMC said that although there was no evidence that Dr Trossel was acting dishonestly, it was 'satisfied that there was neither sufficient scientific nor clinical medical evidence upon which to proceed with the stem-cell therapy.' Furthermore, the panel considered that Dr Trossel lacked the 'necessary neurological or scientific expertise upon which to proceed with such therapy.'
One of the patients who visited Dr Trossel's clinic paid £6,000 for a course of treatment that did not work. Another paid up to £11,000 and also received no therapeutic benefit. The panel took the view that Dr Trossel had taken unfair advantage of the patients made vulnerable by their conditions and that this amounted to exploitation.
The hearing will recommence in September to consider the issue of misconduct.