Tighter stem-cell therapy regulation 'needed' to protect Aust patients

08 April, 2015

The Australian Academy of Science has called for the closure of a loophole that is allowing some doctors to offer unproven, costly and potentially dangerous stem-cell therapies, in a submission to the Government regulator.

The current regulations allow medical practitioners to use cells removed from a patient's own body to treat a range of medical conditions. The majority of cases involve proven treatments such as bone marrow transplants or heart bypass surgery. However, some unethical practitioners are using the loophole to offer experimental and potentially risky therapies to vulnerable patients with conditions like cancer, Alzheimer's disease and Multiple Sclerosis.

Academy Fellow and Chair of the Academy's National Committee for Cellular and Developmental Biology Professor Richard Harvey welcomed the Government's commitment to reviewing the rules to protect patients while safeguarding legitimate and high-quality medical practice.

"Stem-cell science has the potential to provide new approaches to a range of debilitating and sometimes life-threatening conditions," he said.

"However, we need to give patients confidence that the treatments being offered by doctors are safe, tested, and based on rigorous science.

"As the science advances and we develop ever more sophisticated medical technologies, our guiding focus must always be the safety and well-being of patients."

The Academy's submission was made in response to a Therapeutic Goods Administration consultation on options for amending the current legislation. The submission recommends that all doctors using human tissue for treatment purposes comply with the strongest standards of manufacturing safety and evidence-based medicine.