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Stem cell doctor exploited 'vulnerable' patients, hearing finds

19 April 2010
Appeared in BioNews 554

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.

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23 May 2011 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
A controversial stem cell therapy center operating out of Dusseldorf and Cologne, Germany, has closed. The news follows an undercover investigation by the Sunday Telegraph which claimed that the clinic offered unproven and dangerous stem cell therapies....
4 October 2010 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
A doctor has been struck off by the General Medical Council (GMC) for exploiting vulnerable patients by administering 'pointless' and 'unjustified' stem cell treatments...
15 February 2010 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
The UK's General Medical Council (GMC) is hearing evidence of a Dutch clinic that supplied stem cell therapies to British patients alleged to be not 'intended for human use'....
10 January 2010 - by Dr Vivienne Raper 
Scientist and patient groups want more safeguards to prevent clinics in the UK from offering unproven stem cell treatments, according to the Guardian newspaper. The calls come as a Harley Street doctor - Robert Trossel - comes before the General Medical Council (GMC) accused of misconduct, the newspaper reports. According to the Guardian, the upcoming GMC hearing will consider allegations that he offered, and made false claims about, stem cell therapy. Dr Trossel is accused of ...
2 May 2006 - by BioNews 
Controversial stem cell therapy is to be provided in the UK on overnight ferries sailing in international water in order to bypass EU regulation. Advanced Cell Therapeutics (ACT), a Swiss company which offers treatment to sufferers of neurological disorders at twelve clinics around the world including some in Holland and...
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