|Bracing against the wind|
Friday, May 08, 2009
First, the patient's fat cells were sent to a lab. The stem cells were extracted, propagated, and sent back. The enriched solution of cells was injected into arthritic joints. The results happened fast... reduced swelling, no pain, etc.
In this story, prior to treatment, the patient couldn't even walk. But afterward, he could chase a ball, roll over and even fetch...
Dogs, cats and horses can get long-lasting arthritic relief with this inexpensive and safe procedure. The procedure is called "HSCT" (hemopoietic stem cell transplantation).
Looking at recent abstracts it's sort of a foregone assumption that the procedure works, and works well. Tests of HSCT have been done over and over.... as early as 1999. All the tests, even the older ones, seems to result in a large percentage of patients being symptom-free for long periods of time, ranging from 6 months to 2 years. You can read a history of research at the NIH website.
But even with all this research, the treatment isn't used on humans very often. No large-scale clinical trials of an inexpensive autologous HSCT treatment for non-life threatening RA is underway. Most experts believe it will never be tried. All the literature talks about using lots of drugs in conjunction with the treatment, and only doing the treatment on people who are going to die, etc. For most people, the solution is still pharmaceutical, and will probably stay that way....forever.
In 2003, the CDC estimated that $80 billion was spent on medical expenses related to arthritis. That's over 80 billion per year.
If all 8.6 million people with arthritis in the U.S. got a $3000 stem cell treatment, it would cost $25 billion. But that assumes there's no economy of scale. The price tag for large-scale treatment would easily be as low as $500. Something like the way LASIK is today. Lab culturing isn't that expensive. And it's very likely that the cure would last many years to come (the human patients from 2004 are still cured).
Unfortunately this would, effectively, bankrupt the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, leading to an 60-80 billion dollar shortfall per year. Over time, we're talking trillions of dollars of revenue losses.
So.... there is no way this is *ever* going to get approved in the U.S. Not even in Obama's "change lite" vision of America. IMO, no chance at all.
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