Stem cell therapy: Future of medicine?

MANILA, Philippines - Everyone is talking about stem cell therapy. But scammers and swindlers are also taking advantage of the fad, prompting the Health Department to step in. Buena Bernal reports.

It’s the new medical buzzword in the Philippines.
Stem cell therapy is a procedure which uses repair cells found in the body to replace old cells.
Dr Florencio Lucero started doing the procedure 6 years ago.

DR FLORENCIO LUCERO, STEM CELL TRANSPLANT SURGEON: Stem cells can help degenerative diseases. Some people who have serious illnesses, and they cannot find any solution to their condition, they seek this kind of treatment, because it can improve their condition. But not a cure. It cannot cure.

Pilar Vazquez who went through a mild stroke says she felt energized after undergoing the treatment.

PILAR VAZQUEZ, STEM CELL TRANSPLANT PATIENT: Stem cell is very good. I did not feel pain or what. Everything is very good. Before, I don’t [always] talk. Now, I always talk. That’s a very good difference, because now they say, ‘Ay si Mommy, ang galing galing niyan, parating nagsasalita!’

But stem cell therapy became controversial after 3 government officials allegedly died from the treatment, while another official filed charges against his German doctor for his botched treatment last year.
Food and Drug Administration director Dr. Kenneth Hartigan Go says right now, stem cell therapy is “allowed but under investigation”.

DR KENNETH HARTIGAN-GO, DIRECTOR, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION: We are keeping an objective mind and saying, okay, if this is investigational, go ahead. And then we have to see outcome, say, within a period of a time whether the product actually works or not.

The Department of Health cautions the public from engaging in prohibited forms of the treatment -- those that are performed outside accredited facilities and those that source stem cells from human embryos.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona says he does not want to stifle the innovation but there must be regulation.

ENRIQUE ONA, SECRETARY OF HEALTH: Yes, we are encouraging it but part of an investigative process. Stem cell or the use of stem cell in medicine is the future of medicine.

Stem cell transplant patient Pilar Vazquez will soon be celebrating her 89th birthday.
Her family is thankful for the innovation that they say gave Pilar her renewed strength.
Buena Bernal, Rappler, Manila.

- Rappler.com