What do Former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Former President Joesph Estrada have in common? They are among the high profile politicians and celebrities who are reported and have confirmed undergoing stem cell therapy.
Stem cell treatment is a type of intervention strategy that introduces new adult stem cells into damaged tissue in order to treat disease or injury, including cancer and HIV as being alleged in news reports.
Hospitals, medical centers and wellness centers offering stem cell therapy for medical and aesthetic purposes have proliferated rapidly in the Philippines.
On October 19, Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona issued a public advisory on stem cell therapy. The advisory stated that although this technology holds promise, stem cell therapy is not yet part of standard of care and is considered an investigative procedure for compassionate use. Applications of stem cells for the treatment of malignancies, blood disorders, degenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s Disease), metabolic diseases (e.g.,diabetes), and immune cell therapy are still under clinical evaluation and study.
The advisory added that while research has shown that adult stem cells and umbilical cord stem cells are the safest and most ethical, the public is warned that claims of preventive and curative benefits of stem cell therapy are still on their investigative stage. The DOH and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are currently drafting standards and regulations to ensure the safety of the public as well as address ethical concerns regarding the use of stem cells in research and medicine.
The DOH strongly advised the public to avoid stem cell therapies, which use the following as sources for stem cells: embryonic stem cells, aborted fetuses, genetically-altered and animal fresh cells.