Category Archives: Patient Stories

Progress For Patients: Texas Stem Cells Law and Federal Right To Try

Austin, TX – May 20th, 2018 Elizabeth Jeneault, host of “In Focus” on Spectrum News, interviewed the people behind the passage of historic legislation that is changing the face of medicine, by putting patient’s rights first.

Patients For Stem Cells, founding members Jennifer Ziegler and Tracy Thompson
Click to watch interview

Jennifer and Tracy share how their advocacy work  over many years led to passage of Charlie’s Law, Texas HB 810, that was signed into law in 2018. This law will allow adult stem cell treatment in Texas for terminal and critically ill chronic patients.

Rep. Tan Parker on Charlie’s Law, TX HB 810 Stem cell Law
Click to watch interview

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

State Rep. Tan Parker (R), author of Charlie’s Law, explains why he’s passionate about allowing adults to access their own stem cells for helpful health treatments.

KK125 Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation on Right To Try
Click to watch interview

Michelle Wittenburg, President of The KK125 Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation discusses how a personal loss drove her to advocate for adult stem cell therapy, and other beneficial ovarian cancer treatments utilizing the Texas Right To Try law.

Ten days after these interviews were given, the federal Right to Try  Act was signed into law on May 30th, 2018.  President Trump Signs Right to Try Act Into Law.

FAQ

What started the Texas movement?

The advocacy efforts started in 2007 in Texas.  At that time, Patients for Stem Cells (PFSC) was not in existence.  Two women who would later become founding members of PFSC were active at the state level in advocacy and helped educate on the promise adult stem cells hold.  By 2011 after much education and visibility at the state capitol an effort was led by then State Representative Rick Hardcastle.  Chairman Hardcastle lost his daughter at the age of 17 to cancer and shortly after he was diagnosed with MS. Due to Chairman Hardcastle’s efforts and two of the founding members of PFSC, a clinic opened in Houston to treat patients with expanded stem cells.  Governor Rick Perry was the first patient and Chairman Rick Hardcastle was patient number 5.  Founding members of PFSC were also treated.  However, this was short lived.  The FDA ruled in Sept. 2012 that expanded stem cells were a drug, subject to the lengthy FDA approval process. This required the clinic to cease treating patients in the U.S. One of us was mid-treatment when this occurred. Having worked for years to gain access to this treatment in the U.S. and then have hopes crushed was devastating. This is what inspired the formation of PFSC in Oct. 2012, building on the effort that started over a decade ago, and has now expanded to a nationwide network. This has been an effort in the making for over a decade, culminating in two significant pieces of Texas legislation, The Right To Try Act in 2015, and TX HB 810, Charlie’s Law in 2017.

We want to thank Chairman Hardcastle, Chairman Tan Parker, the bill author, State Representative Drew Springer, co-sponsor, and State Senator Paul Bettencourt for sponsoring the Senate version.  They were great champions in passing HB 810 with unanimous bipartisan approval.

We are forever grateful to so many people that made this a reality.  The dedication and compassion was overwhelming.  This is something that can be done by every state in our nation.

What’s the difference between Right To Try Laws and Texas HB 810?

Since 2014, 40 states have passed Right To Try laws. The Right To Try law gives terminal patients the right to try experimental drugs or biologics. The success at the state level was the driving force in passing the federal law in 2018.

Texas HB 810 extends this right to chronically ill patients, but only for biologics, like adult stem cell treatments. We support regulation and want accountability within the industry. However, this should fall under the practice of medicine and is something that can be regulated at the state level. HB 810 is not perfect, but it is a starting point. We will continue to work to improve this and do it in a responsible way, offering a safe and regulated environment.

Can I get stem cell therapy in Texas now?

No, not yet.  HB 810 went into effect in Sept. 2017.  However, it had to go before 2 state agencies to define regulations. The first step was for the Texas Medical Board to do their rule making process. It is now before the Texas State Department of Health and Human Services to establish which conditions can be treated. This decision is expected in the fall of 2018. We will publish when this is available.  Until that time, there are no clinics operating under HB 810.

So why do I see many clinics in Texas and other states offering stem cell therapy?

These are clinics offering low dose stem cell therapy, that is extracted from adipose tissue and then infused into the patient on the same day. These clinics are all operating outside of FDA guidelines and are subject to enforcement at any time as we have seen with the recent injunctions against Cell Surgical Network and US Stem Cell Clinic. These were two of the largest and most visible nationwide networks offering same day cell procedures for a myriad of diseases. There are about 600 clinics offering treatments and the vast majority are doing so outside of guidelines.  This is NOT the same therapy as expanded high dose stem cells. If a same-day clinic says they are operating under Right To Try or TX HB 810, they are being misleading. The exception to this is same-day orthopedic treatments using bone marrow derived stem cells, which is still allowed under the FDA’s regulations.

Will patients have to pay to be in these trials?

At this time the cancer treatments are being paid for by the patient, and it is expected the expanded stem cell therapies will also be paid for by the patient. The benefit to patients is that they no longer have to incur the extra expense or inconvenience of offshore travel. Offshore travel is not even possible for many patients who are very sick, so by bringing the treatments back to the U.S. it removes one more barrier.

When will the treatments given under TX HB 810 and Right To Try be covered by insurance?

None of these therapies  are covered by insurance at this time. The treatments likely will have to continue through the FDA approval process. However, in 2017 the momentum created by Right To Try laws being passed in many states, as well as patient activism, the 21st Century Cures Act was signed into law. This Act provides the FDA with the flexibility to accelerate how it evaluates regenerative medicine treatments, such as stem cell therapies.. It is possible that the data generated from the trials in Texas may be used in this process, and help gain faster FDA approval, the prerequisite to insurance coverage.

What type of cancers are being treated under the Right To Try law in Texas?

The Texas Right to Try law went into effect in June 2015, since then at least 78 patients have received an experimental cancer treatment not allowed by the FDA for Neuroendocrine Tumors. Dr. Ebrahim Delpassand is conducting a trial at Excel Diagnostics & Nuclear Oncology Center in Houston TX. Click HERE for information on the therapy, and contact information.

Also see Who’s Actually Using ‘Right-To-Try’ Laws? A Texas Oncologist Explains his Experience
Also see Right To Try Is Working

For information on ovarian cancer, contact  The KK125 Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation

What can we do as patients?

The power of the patient voice is gaining momentum.  This has been a landmark year for patients. The federal passage of Right To Try and the first ever state law allowing expanded adult stem cell treatments for chronic/terminal patients is so exciting.  We see great potential moving forward, and are already working with other states to implement the model that was passed in TX.  Every state needs passionate, educated advocates to put a face to the issue and make it a reality. There is so much power in patient advocacy.  However, we must craft a very positive effective message.  It’s about protecting our constitutional right to self-preservation in the face of chronic/terminal illness.   We must remain bi-partisan and work together to take this movement to the next level.  We feel this model will be the next phase of Right To Try and we want it now rather than later.

Telling your personal story and getting involved can be intimidating.  Never underestimate the power of the patient’s voice.  There were many times we felt inferior during this process.  It can be very emotional to put yourself out there. It is all well worth it when you hear from the legislators that personal stories are what make bills into laws.  It takes putting a face to the bill that brings it to life.  The moral of the story is never underestimate the value you can bring. Some of us are not physically able to be there in person, but can still contact their law makers  via phone and email.

Our subscribers to the PFSC blog have been an amazing support to us when we’ve made a call to action, contacting their legislators and regulators. Please continue to share our posts far and wide to get the message of hope out there to all patients. Thank you to each and every one of you!

Want to get involved in your state? Please contact us!

Join the conversation with other patients on our Facebook page and Twitter.

The Patients For Stem Cell Team

 

♦ FDA wants to Stop Stem Cell Therapy AND Breast Reconstruction -Make Comments by Sept. 27th 2016

fdahearingUPDATE: Congratulations everyone! We submitted 6,952 comments! Click HERE to read the comments.

Sept. 24th, 2016 – Cellular therapy is a disruptive medical innovation which is revealing a surprising truth: our own bodies are the best source of medicine ever discovered. This is challenging many of the conventional therapies, such as drugs and surgery. The FDA’s regulatory approach starting in 1993 has been inhibitory to the wider adoption of this therapy. The current proposals, which seek to classify certain stem cell procedures as a prescription drug, which will only insure that more patients are forced to pursue medical tourism.

If you you think you or a loved one might ever need to use their own stem cells, for example to avoid a knee replacement, then please take a few moments to make comments to the FDA by Sept. 27th. Instructions provided below.

The FDA has presented 4 draft guidances, with the goal of shutting down stem cell clinics in the U.S. Readers of the PFSC blog helped start the citizen feedback process earlier this year when over 600 registrations for the FDA Part 15 hearing overwhelmed the agency. The hearing had to be postponed until Sept 12-13th 2016 and expanded to 2 days, which only allowed 5 minutes each for the 100 people who registered to speak. These presentations from scientists, cellular therapy providers and patients were mostly in opposition to the guidances. The legal and scientific details are available below in links to the testimony and articles.

FDA PROPOSED BAN ON BREAST RECONSTRUCTION TECHNIQUE
The FDA was roundly criticized for proposing that not only your stem cells, but also your fat, should be classified as a drug, requiring a decade of trials. Rick Jaffe, a lawyer with 3 decades of healthcare legal experience, raises the alarm in this passionate piece.

THE SCARIEST ATTACK ON PERSONAL FREEDOM YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF/ THE BIG TAKEWAY: If the FDA gets its way, the most popular post mastectomy breast reconstruction procedure will become illegal, and so will many other life enhancing procedures – Richard Jaffe, Esq. The huffington Post, 09/18/2016

HOW TO MAKE COMMENTS TO THE FDA BY SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

Click HERE to submit your comments o FDA.

Tell your own story if you have had stem cell therapy, or think you want it in the future.
In your own words (or FDA will reject it) make the following points, if you support continued access to your cells:

1. Withdraw the four HCT/P guidance documents, and work with the experts on solutions
2. Stop trying to regulate a person’s use of their own body parts
3. Continue access to responsible stem cell therapy that uses the patients’ own tissue

A great deal of media attention has arisen, so you may want to save your comment, and also post it as a comment on the articles we’ve included below.

Click HERE to read comments submitted by others.

UPDATE: An amazing 6,952 comments were submitted by the deadline of Sept. 27th. FDA has never received more than 20 comments on previous guidances.

Click HERE to review the speaker agenda for the two day hearing.
Click HERE to view Day 1 of the hearing.

1:48:00 Mary Ann Chirba (Boston College)
1:53:00 and 2:58:40 Arnold Caplan (Case Western Reserve)
1:59:10 and 2:53:00 Keith March (Indiana University)

These three presenters are leaders in the field. Caplan was the first to discover the healing abilities of adult stem cells. In FDA Draft Stem Cell Guidance Documents Exposed as Improper Rulemaking, Bad Science and Heartless Public Policy Richard Jaffe comments “…these presenters and especially March and Caplan showed that the FDA’s view was biologically unsound.”

Alexey Bersenev (Yale University) posted an objective scientific review of the hearing, also noting the import of March and Caplan’s input,
Historic FDA public hearing on regulation of cell therapy in US

Click HERE to view Day 2 of the hearing.
Click HERE for a patient presentation provided by SammyJo Wilkinson.

In the last presentation at the hearing, SammyJo explains how her own stem cells put long-term multiple sclerosis into remission and recovery since 2014. She also echoed the proposals for solutions presented, such as the conditional approval plan and patient registry proposed by Arnold Caplan, Janet Marchbroda (BPC) Day 1 4:16:00, and Leslie Miller (AACT) Day 1 3:23:58.

Editorial – Improving the regulatory framework for cell therapy does not equate to deregulation
Caplan A. I., Ricordi C., CellR4 2016; 4 (4): e2109

Many moving presentations were made by patients on Day 2, about lives restored by cellular therapy from illnesses that had no effective treatment options. In our next post we will explore how the media has covered the FDA regulatory story, and how the patient experience is finally being included.

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♦ Will Real World Patient Evidence Have An Impact On Stem Cell Legislation?

Patients For Stem Cells (PFSC) encourages you to listen to this important webcast regarding the medical innovation bills that are currently before Congress, including the REGROW legislation for cellular therapy. This legislation will determine whether patients have access to life saving cellular therapies in the U.S., or must continue traveling to offshore clinics.

Real World Evidence for Safe and Effective Cures: Medical Innovation for All Americans
The webcast was hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) on June 23, 2016 9:00.

Click here to listen to Webcast, and scroll down the page to access the videos.

We previously covered the impact that Doug Oliver made with his Senator, Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Oliver told his story of recovery from blindness thanks to his own stem cells to Alexander, who is Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The HELP Committee will be voting in the near future on stem cell legislation like the REGROW bill, which outlines an accelerated approval pathway to cut time and cost of the approval pathway in half. Both Alexander and Oliver will be on the BPC panel.

While PFSC has supported this effort to accelerate approval of cellular therapy, we would like to add two points to the discussion, under the declaration:

Our Cells Are Not Drugs!

1. The REGROW bill reaffirms the FDA’s erroneous jurisdiction over the use of a patient’s own stem cells.

The classification of one’s own stem cells as a drug, makes this therapy subject to the extended drug approval pathway that currently costs $1 billion dollars and takes 10 years. While the bill offers to cut this in half, it is based on the wrong premise that our own stem cells should be considered a drug. This type of therapy is more akin to banking your own blood for a later transfusion. PFSC documented this erroneous regulatory position taken by the FDA in 2012 in The History of FDA Control of Your Body.

Recently, this was further explored by Richard Jaffe, a health care litigator who has worked on many of the most significant, high profile heath care cases of the past twenty plus years, and helped organize and testified at several Congressional Hearings on various issues related to access to experimental medicine.

In an essay titled S 2689: Congress to the rescue on stem cells? (NOT) Richard explains why the REGROW bill would allow the FDA to prohibit some same day autologous stem cell procedures.

“Based on warning letters and recent FDA guidance documents, the clinical use of autologous stem cell therapeutics is essentially over. The only way patients are going to be able to receive autologous stem cell transplants for non-homologous use is either in FDA approved clinical trials or outside the United States.”

An example is the orthopedic treatments currently offered at over 800 clinics across the U.S. This includes procedures where your own stem cells are injected into an injured arthritic hip or knee, at a cost usually under $5,000. Instead of a knee or hip replacement with costs $50,000 to $100,000 and has more risk, pain and poorer outcomes. Putting this on the drug approval pathway would delay access and multiply the cost of a procedure that has already successfully helped thousands of patients avoid disability and stop pain.

eyesTherapies already in use and accumulating safety and effectiveness data should not have to go back to the starting line. This point is clearly underscored by this Fox News article which points out the current move by the FDA further restrict cellular therapy would make cataract treatments illegal!
Cell therapy reversed blindness for 47,000 patients in 2015. So why is it against the law?

2. Just because stem cells are expanded, that doesn’t turn them into a drug.

WalkerswIn January 2016 MD Monthly Magazine published an opinion piece, by one of the founding members of PFSC, SammyJo Wilkinson. She recounted the life-saving cellular therapy she had in 2012 from Houston-based biotechnology company, Celltex Therapeutics. Celltex took her adipose-derived stem cells and cultured them in their state-of-the-art, FDA-regulated laboratory, to reach a therapeutic dose in the hundreds of millions of mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs. Her first round of therapy was administered in Houston. However, shortly after, the FDA made a ruling that expanded (cultured) adult stem cells constituted a biological drug. Celltex was forced to move therapy to Cancun, Mexico, where SammyJo continued therapy after a year delay.

While Celltex continues to operate a best-in-class cGMP laboratory in Houston, the company exports cells to Mexico, in accordance with the Federal Commission for Protection against Sanitary Risk (COFEPRIS), which is considered the regulatory equivalent of the FDA in Mexico. Cells are used by licensed physicians at Hospital Galenia for therapeutic applications.

Adult stem cell therapy spared SammyJo from 20 years of disabling multiple sclerosis, and impending nursing home care. By 2014 her disease was in remission. Today she is still living at home with her husband. She is pain-free, and four years into recovery. Recently, she reached a milestone with the ability to stand up from her wheelchair and walk 100 feet with a walker.

In her article she quoted one of her long time stem cell heroes, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, former FDA director, who is also speaking at the June 23rd BPC Panel discussion. He has gone on record stating:

“Breakthrough technologies deserve a breakthrough in the way the FDA evaluates them. Take regenerative medicine… after proof of concept and safety testing, a product could be approved for marketing with every eligible patient entered in a registry so the company and the FDA can establish efficacy through post-market studies.”

The FDA ruling in 2012 claiming that expanded cells are “more than minimally manipulated” was not supported by scientific evidence, and the FDA ignored the fact that the expanded cells that saved SammyJo’s life were identical to the original cells taken from her body.

PFSC is happy to see Real World Patient Evidence given credit, and is happy to add the many success stories we have documented. This is what motivates our grassroots advocacy effort to make this therapy available to all Americans. The current legislative effort needs to take our perspective on FDA over regulation into account. We herewith submit this article as patient testimony to the Congressional hearings on regenerative medicine therapy.

If you agree with the opinions in this article. please express this to your legislators by sending an email in your own words from the one click email for at CellTherapyNow.org

SammyJo Wilkinson
Member, Patients For Stem Cells


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