The Seattle Times recently published a post from Kaiser Health News discussing what the headline of the story noted as “lucrative stem cell treatments.” The post was highly critical of the regenerative medicine industry, implying that reputable institutions like the Mayo Clinic are only offering treatments because they want their part of the financial pie.
Such criticisms being leveled at regenerative medicine are nothing new. In the absence of any reason to dissuade people from making their own medical choices, critics have to point to the business side of regenerative medicine as though it is some sort of evil. But if that is the name of the game, let us talk about all of medicine as a whole.
Is medicine in America a business or not? If it is, then anyone who decries the profits of regenerative medicine but says nothing of the profits derived from traditional medicine is being disingenuous. To say that regenerative medicine practitioners are only doing what they do to make money is dishonest if the same is not said of traditional practitioners.
Unnecessary Medical Care
ProPublica ran a story in 2018 detailing how much unnecessary medical care is provided in this country every year. Much of their story was based on a study by the Washington Health Alliance (WHA), a nonprofit organization with the mission of making healthcare safer and more affordable.
The WHA studied the insurance claims of more than 1 million patients in Washington state. Here’s what they discovered in just a single year:
- 600,000 patients underwent unnecessary treatments
- Those unnecessary treatments cost $282 million
- 75% of cervical cancer screenings were unnecessary
- Those extra screenings cost an estimated $19 million
- 85% of prep tests for healthy patients facing surgery were unnecessary
- Those prep tests cost an estimated $86 million
- Unnecessary cardiology tests cost patients some $40 million.
Those are alarming numbers by any measure. And think of this: they apply only to Washington state. There are 49 additional states plus the District of Columbia to consider. If what the WHA discovered in Washington applies across the country, you are talking about millions of patients receiving unnecessary care at a cost of billions of dollars.
An Apples and Oranges Comparison
Apex Biologix is a company that operates in the regenerative medicine field. In short, they are in the business of regenerative medicine. They sell PRP kits, stem cell kits, centrifuges, and other related equipment to doctors and clinics.
What they do is no different than any other medical supplier. As such, you can take the actual cost of medical equipment and supplies out of the equation. That leaves us with the argument that patients spend thousands of dollars on PRP and stem cell injections that don’t work.
That’s a fair argument only if you also mention what is spent on traditional medical procedures. The problem is that we have an apples and oranges comparison based solely in the fact that health insurance companies don’t cover regenerative medicine procedures.
Patients may pay out-of-pocket for regenerative medicine, but that doesn’t mean knee replacement surgeries and cortisone injections are free. Patients still pay for those procedures through their health insurance premiums. And guess what? Health insurance costs continue climbing year after year.
The fact is that medicine is a business. It’s disingenuous to criticize organizations like the Mayo Clinic for charging thousands of dollars for an “unproven” stem cell treatment yet give a free pass when those same organizations charge thousands of dollars for unnecessary tests – and even more for invasive procedures. You cannot have it both ways.