Men charged with fraud for marketing stem cells as miracle cures

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
stem cells, fraud, stem cell research, chronic diseases, terminal illnesses
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Ongoing stem cell research has given hope to sufferers of terminal and chronic illnesses. Unfortunately, some have preyed upon these people by offering them false hope with purported miracle cures. Three men are in custody and a fourth is being sought by the FBI for their involvement in a scheme to market stem cells as miracle cures to these desperate people. The arrests have occurred over the past 10 days after two indictments were issued in November charging the four men with 39 counts of mail fraud and unlawfully manufacturing, distributing and selling stem cells and stem cell procedures not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

According to the FBI, the men bilked more than $1.5 million from patients suffering from incurable diseases. One of the four men, Francisco Morales, 52, of Brownsville, Texas, is charged with falsely saying that he was a medical doctor who operated a clinic in Brownsville that specialized in using stem cells to treat incurable diseases. Another Texan, Alberto Ramon, 48, of Del Rio Texas was charged in a stem cell scheme. Ramon is a licensed midwife who prosecutors said obtained umbilical cord blood to create stem cells from his patients at a maternity-care clinic.

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Another man, Vincent Dammai, 40, of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, was identified as a researcher at the Medical University of South Carolina. The FBI said he used university facilities to create stem cells without obtaining permission from either the FDA or university officials.

A fourth man, Lawrence Stowe, 58, of Dallas, Texas remains at large and a warrant has been issued for his arrest. The indictment charges that Stowe, who sometimes referred to himself as Dr. Larry Stowe marketed, promoted, and sold stem cells for the treatment of several diseases through front companies. In 2010, the CBS News program "Sixty Minutes" profiled Stowe. In an interview, a patient suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS; “Lou Gehrig’s Diease”) noted that Stowe told him that his stem cell therapy could reverse and cure the progressive and debilitating disease. There is no cure for ALS and there is no treatment that can reverse the symptoms. Most patients die from the disease within five years after diagnosis.

"The investigation identified a scheme whereby the suffering and hopes of victims in extreme medical needs were used and manipulated for personal profit," Cory Nelson, special agent in charge of the FBI's San Antonio office said on December 31. He noted that Morales would meet people in the United States to sell them the procedures, then travel to Mexico to perform them.

One factor that increases the risk of seriously ill patients being taken in by unscrupulous individuals is that stem cell research is ongoing at respectable medical facilities throughout the U.S. For example the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA has made significant advances in stem cell research. Their programs include stem cell immune therapy of cancer and HIV, neurodegenerative disease and repair, diabetes, islet transplantation and other metabolic disorders, cardiac (heart) repair, genetic diseases with bone marrow and stem cell transplants, and musculo-skeletal repair and regeneration. Thus, in the near future, via stem cell research, it is possible that diabetes can be cured, paraplegics can regain the use of their legs, and patients with heart disease can regenerate a new, healthy heart.

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Comments

Actually, while there may not be any great medical method for doing anything about als, there are available ways to solve the problem. People look for external ways to solve als, ways such as stem cell procedures or medication. The truth is that none of this is necessary anyway. Als develops when patterns and factors in a person's life come together in a certain way. What this means is that by changing what is going on with those factors and patterns, one can solve the problem and heal. Some of the people who have done this and written about it are Craig Oster, Steven Shackel, Evy McDonald and David Atkinson. On another note, wasting time and energy on going after these four guys is rather silly. Plenty of legal medical schemes are just as bad or worse than what these guys have been doing. The only thing that is going to protect people from it all is their using some sense in deciding how to solve health problems.
Medical fraud at any scale can inflict significant harm--physical, mental, and monetary--thus, it should be deterred. People with a serious illness become desperate and become easily victimized. these individuals should obtain their care at a tertiary medical center and the physicians affiliated with it.
That won't save them. There is plenty of fraud, not to mention foolishness and incompetence, at medical centers too.
This just makes me sick to my stomach. My brother-in-law, one of the nicest men I have ever know can pass any day now from ALS. To give people false hope is so crule. What goes through peoples minds when they profit off of people going through what is probably the worst time in their lives and their families. And to comment #1, Sir or Mam, with all do respect if you have a way of curing ALS please share with the medical community because in 60+ years there has been no cure.
ALS is indeed a terrible disease. Hopefully, stem cell researchers at the many reputable US facilities will develop a cure.
My father died from ALS in 98, and he had fraudsters claiming that they had been cured by injecting gold into their bodies. As his daughter, it was easy to lose my common sense when it came to treatments potentially curing my dad. My father was also desperately looking for any hope, and treatments that sound ridiculous to the average person, are easily sold to those doing of incurable diseases. These men should go to jail.