MANILA, Philippines—Stem cell therapy at spa centers and salons? Watch out, government agents are coming.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona says no clinic or hospital in the Philippines can offer stem cell therapy without accreditation from the Department of Health (DOH).
Speaking to reporters last week, Ona noted that while many centers are advertising stem cell therapy treatment, none of them have the approval of the health department.
“As of now we have not accredited any clinic or even hospital offering stem cell therapy yet,” Ona said.
Admitting that the DOH doesn’t have the police power to close down erring health centers, Ona said the department would coordinate with other governmental agencies like the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and local governments to prevent spas and salons from offering stem cell treatment.
“We will issue a warning for them to stop [doing stem cell therapy]. But if they continue despite warnings from us, that’s when we will move to close them down,” Ona said.
Stem cell therapy and treatment, which are becoming popular here and abroad, are medical procedures that deal with ailments by replacing malignant cells with healthy cells.
Only medical doctors with the right training can perform stem cell treatment.
Some centers use the procedure for cosmetic purposes, focusing on the components of the skin like collagen to make patients look younger and healthy.
“While it may be considered innovative, [the procedure] is not a standard therapy so it should not be advertised as if it is an accepted form of treatment already… and besides, even if the treatment at these facilities are DOH-approved, the results should be evaluated after a certain period of time to determine if their claim is effective,” Ona said.
Earlier the DOH released rules for the practice of stem cell and cell-based therapy to prevent abuses and dubious practices.
Ona said the regulations contained in DOH Administrative Order 2013-0012 aimed to ensure that human stem cell and cell-based therapies in the country would be safe and effective.
“Our efforts at regulating the practice of stem cell therapy in this country are aimed at safeguarding the welfare of patients and the general public,” he said.
Ona said centers using stem cell preparations and offering cell-based or cellular therapies would be ordered to comply with the guidelines set by the Bioethics Advisory Board.
The board will be composed of representatives from the DOH, the National Transplant Ethics Committee, the Philippine Food and Drug Administration, a government health institution, a private organization or health institution, academics, researchers, local and international experts, Ona said.
“This board will ensure that ethical and professional standards are upheld and that contentious scientific, ethical and legal issues are addressed. Charges and complaints shall be addressed to the DOH Bureau of Health Facilities and Services and the Philippine FDA,” he said.
Ona said an Institutional Review Board would review and approve stem cell therapies following the guidelines set by the Bioethics Advisory Board.
“There are minimum standards for personnel qualifications, physical facilities, equipment and supplies and work environment, which will be prescribed by the guidelines,” Ona said.
Proper record keeping in each center that will provide information on each donor, patient, procedures on stem cell and cell-based therapies will be mandated as well,” he said.
The rules also restrict the use of genetically altered stem cells and tissues of human adults and the umbilical cord, fat-derived human stem cells, and live animal stem cells, Ona said.
They also prohibit the creation of human embryos and their derivatives, the use of aborted human fetal stem cells and their derivatives, and plant parts labeled as stem cells for human treatment and research, he said.
To stop the spread of communicable diseases, the rules would ensure a minimum quality of service and staff qualification in health centers that offer stem cell therapy, he added.
Ona said the guidelines also classify which stem cell preparations and therapies would be registered and allowed with certain restrictions.
Preparations that would be allowed include those with adult human stem cells, human umbilical cord stem cells, and human organ-specific cells, he said.