Stem cell therapies get a lot of news coverage these days. Most of it rooted in disagreements over the usefulness of stems cells. Yet in the ongoing debate over whether stem cell therapy should be practiced or not, it seems we are missing a much larger point: the demand for the therapies is very real.
The Wall Street Journal ran an article on January 8 (2018) talking about the use of stem cell therapies to treat knee injuries. That article, written by Samathi Reddy, opened with the following sentence:
“Jason Dragoo’s Stanford University research team gets 100 to 200 inquiries every day from people interested in joining its clinical trial studying the use of stem cells to treat knee injuries.”
Hundreds of people contacting just one research team is but the tip of the iceberg. Across the country there are hundreds of thousands of people looking to something, anything, to help alleviate the pain of orthopedic injuries and diseases. This should tell us something. In fact, it does. There are three things it tells us if we are willing to step back and just listen.
1. Patients Want Something New
Imagine you are a patient sitting in the office of your primary care physician to be seen for the same condition you have been dealing with for the past 15 years. Every time you go the result is the same: the doctor writes you a prescription and tells you everything will be all right. After so long, wouldn’t you get tired of going? Wouldn’t you want to look for another doctor who could offer you more than just a bottle of pills and words he knows are not true?
Many of the patients seeking stem cell treatment for osteoarthritis do so because they want and need something new. Pain medications only last so long. Cortisone shots offer only short-term relief. And as for surgery, it is considered a last resort. Patients desperate for some relief are looking to the one thing that looks like it could actually work.
2. Current Treatments Are Inadequate
Sticking with the osteoarthritis problem, the second thing high demand for stem cell therapy tells us is that current treatments are inadequate. The key to understanding this principle is realizing that health insurance policies do not cover stem cell therapy. Therefore, patients are paying for it out-of-pocket. Now stop and think about that.
If a patient is willing to spend thousands of dollars on stem cell treatments, it is pretty clear he or she does not think current treatments are getting it done. People put their money where they think it will do the most good. So if they are not willing to pay a comparatively small co-pay for arthroscopic surgery or complete knee replacement, yet thousands of dollars for stem cell therapy is acceptable, the clear indication is that traditional treatments are not meeting patient needs.
3. Doctors Can Take the Lead from Researchers
Right now, the lead on stem cell and other regenerative medicine therapies is in the hands of researchers. However, the demand for such therapies is threatening to take that lead away and place it in the hands of doctors. Consider Apex Biologix. They have already worked with hundreds of doctors and clinics looking to start offering stem cell and PRP therapies. They are just one training provider.
Doctors are rising to meet the demand of their patients by undergoing training. Once they start performing the procedures, they also start a learning process that makes them intimately familiar with how the treatments work. It will not be long before they are the experts.