Google to Ban Ads for Stem Cell Therapies

Alicia Ault

September 06, 2019

Google has announced a broad ban on ads on its platform for a range of unproven medical procedures, including stem cell and gene therapies that have not been tested in rigorous clinical trials.

"Today, we're announcing a new Healthcare and medicines policy to prohibit advertising for unproven or experimental medical techniques such as most stem cell therapy, cellular (non-stem) therapy, and gene therapy," said Google policy adviser Adrienne Biddings in a blog post. Google will not allow advertising for treatments "that have no established biomedical or scientific basis," added Biddings.

The new policy goes further by banning ads for "treatments that are rooted in basic scientific findings and preliminary clinical experience, but currently have insufficient formal clinical testing to justify widespread clinical use," she said.

Google believes that regulated clinical trials are the best way to test medical advances, said Biddings. The company will continue to allow ads for clinical trials. The new policy was necessary because "we have seen a rise in bad actors attempting to take advantage of individuals by offering untested, deceptive treatments," she said. She added, "Oftentimes, these treatments can lead to dangerous health outcomes and we feel they have no place on our platforms."

In the blog post, Deepak Srivastava, MD, president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, said that the policy "is a much-needed and welcome step to curb the marketing of unscrupulous medical products such as unproven stem cell therapies." Added Srivastava, "The premature marketing and commercialization of unproven stem cell products threatens public health, their confidence in biomedical research, and undermines the development of legitimate new therapies."

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently began cracking down on stem cell therapy clinics that promote unproven treatments.

In June, the agency won a permanent order prohibiting a Florida-based clinic, US Stem Cell Clinic LLC, from marketing its adipose-derived stem cell treatments. The FDA has continued to warn other clinic operators, most recently sending a stern letter to R3 Stem Cells of Arizona and its more than 50 affiliated clinics.

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