AG Ferguson Files Lawsuit Against US Stemology for Trafficking in Unproven and Untested Stem Cell Treatments

A Seattle-based company has misleadingly claimed that stem cell injections could treat COVID-19, Parkinson’s disease, lupus and asthma

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed a lawsuit against Seattle-based US Stemology and its owner, Dr. Tami Meraglia, for deceptively marketing stem cell treatments for COVID-19 and dozens of drugs. other serious medical conditions including asthma, lupus, Parkinson’s disease and congestive heart failure. and multiple sclerosis. There is no reliable clinical evidence that stem cell therapy can effectively treat these conditions.

The company, which runs the Seattle Stem Cell Center in lower Queen Anne, billed 107 people a total of $748,250 for the unsubstantiated treatments. The company charged clients up to $10,000 for participating in the clinic’s so-called “patient-funded research.”

US Stemology said it was treating patients in clinical trials. In reality, the “trials” did not follow generally accepted standards of scientific research – and the researchers themselves conducted the “independent review” of the trials.

Ferguson’s lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, claims US Stemology violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act by deceptively marketing stem cell treatments for serious conditions without scientific evidence. The lawsuit seeks civil penalties and asks the court to order U.S. Stemology and Meraglia to pay full restitution to consumers.

“Dr. Meraglia and US Stemology touted stem cells as a potentially life-changing miracle cure that could treat almost anything, even COVID,” Ferguson said. “They tapped into people’s fears and frustrations about their healthcare to sell hundreds of thousands of dollars in unproven treatments.Their conduct evokes a 21st century-old version of snake oil sales tactics.

The attorney general’s office was first alerted to the case when a concerned Washingtonian pointed out the company’s false claims that it could treat and prevent COVID-19. The company made these statements for at least three months at the start of the pandemic.

For example, an ad from the company claimed that a “critically ill” COVID patient had improved thanks to stem cell treatments. In the spring of 2020, the company released a downloadable “Free Coronavirus Thriving Guide,” which called stem cell treatment “your personalized ‘vaccine’ against COVID-19 disease.”

“The reason for this is that stem cell therapy first treats the lungs and has long-term anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating properties,” the guide says.

After the attorney general’s office issued a cease and desist letter, the company removed claims that stem cells are effective against COVID-19 from its website.

In reviewing the consumer complaint, investigators from the Attorney General’s Office found that the company claimed it could treat dozens of other conditions, including serious heart, autoimmune and neurological conditions, without reliable scientific evidence that the Stem cell treatments are effective in treating them.

US Stemology began marketing that it could treat these conditions as early as 2018. Meraglia opened the stem cell clinic in the basement of the medispa she owned, which primarily performed aesthetic and cosmetic treatments at the time.

The Seattle Stem Cell Center has performed its stem cell “treatments” on more than 100 patients for a host of serious chronic conditions, including asthma, muscular dystrophy, stroke, diabetes, and Crohns.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved stem cell treatments for certain blood disorders, but these procedures use a different type of cell than that used by Stemology in the United States. The FDA has not approved stem cell treatments for any other condition. Health insurance plans generally do not cover stem cell treatments.

After the Attorney General’s office began its investigation, US Stemology stopped taking new stem cell patients in June 2021. Numerous misleading treatment claims remain listed on its website.

US Stemology conducted illegitimate ‘clinical trials’ to trick patients into accepting unproven treatments

The clinic and Meraglia promoted their unproven stem cell treatments in a “clinical trial.” Instead of paying patients to participate in a trial, as most legitimate trials do, US Stemology charged patients thousands of dollars to undergo experimental treatments. Moreover, the company’s “trial” was marred by conflicts of interest and shoddy scientific practices.

The FDA requires clinical trials to be approved and overseen by an Institutional Review Board, or IRB. In accordance with FDA requirements, members of IRBs cannot have an interest in a project they are reviewing. Universities and large research institutes operate most IRBs.

The US Stemology trial was under the supervision of an IRB run by the International Cell Surgical Society. Two of the principal investigators listed in the Stemology trials in the United States were also principal leaders of the International Cell Surgical Society when it approved the trials.

In addition to this obvious conflict of interest, the trials themselves did not follow accepted research standards. For example, the trials did not use a control group or standard treatment for each patient, and relied solely on patient surveys to assess outcomes. Typically, legitimate clinical trials pay patients — not thousands of dollars — to agree to undergo experimental treatments.

Instead of conducting legitimate clinical research, US Stemology used a biased, self-serving IRB to mislead patients into thinking they were participating in “clinical research” – when they were actually paying to receive unproven medical treatments.

Trial details

Ferguson’s lawsuit alleges that US Stemology and Meraglia’s unsubstantiated claims are unfair and deceptive marketing practices in violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act.

The lawsuit asks the court to require that US Stemology:

  • Stop his illegal conduct, including all unsubstantiated stem cell claims
  • Fully reimburse patients who paid for treatments at the Seattle Stem Cell Center, a total of at least $748,250
  • Pay $12,500 total in civil penalties for each violation of consumer protection law, including enhanced civil penalties of $5,000 per violation, because US Stemology’s misleading claims targeted people with disabilities. The attorney general’s office estimates that the penalties in this case could total millions of dollars.

Assistant attorneys general Daniel Davies and Logan Starr, investigators Anton Forbes and Eric Peters, paralegal Rosa Hernandez and legal assistant Michelle Paules are working on the case.

If you see suspicious or unproven claims about health treatments, report them to the Attorney General’s Office by filing a complaint at https://www.atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.

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The Attorney General of Washington serves the people and the state of Washington. As the largest law firm in the state, the Attorney General’s Office provides legal representation to every state agency, board, and commission in Washington. In addition, the Board serves the public directly by enforcing consumer protection, civil rights and environmental protection laws. The Bureau also prosecutes elder abuse, Medicaid fraud, and handles sexually violent predator cases in 38 of Washington’s 39 counties. To visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.

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Brionna Aho, director of communications, (360) 753-2727; [email protected]

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