Three people with macular degeneration are now blind after undergoing an unproven stem cell treatment at a clinic in Florida, Stanford Medicine News Center reports.
The treatment was touted as a clinical trial, but the patients paid $5,000 each for the treatment. The authors of a paper just published in the New England Journal of Medicine say this is a red flag: clinical trials should not be funded by patients.
Within a week following the treatment, the patients experienced a variety of complications, including vision loss, detached retinas and hemorrhage. They are now blind.
The article is a “call to awareness for patients, physicians and regulatory agencies of the risks of this kind of minimally regulated, patient-funded research,” said the paper's co-author, Jeffrey Goldberg, MD, PhD, professor and chair of ophthalmology at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Before the surgery, the three patients — all women, ranging in age from 72 to 88 — had vision ranging from 20/30 to 20/200. Now they are likely to remain blind, said the article's co-author, Thomas Albini, MD, an associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at the University of Miami, where two of the patients were subsequently treated for complications from the treatments.
“Although I can’t say it’s impossible, it’s extremely unlikely they would regain vision,” Albini said.
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