The National Medical Commission has prohibited the use of stem cell therapy to treat autistic patients.
The use of stem cell therapy in treating patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is not recommended and its promotion and advertisement will be considered professional misconduct, the National Medical Commission (NMC) has said
The National Medical Commission (NMC) has stated that the use of stem cell therapy in the treatment of patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is not recommended, and that its promotion and advertisement will be considered professional misconduct.
After doctors and parents complained about the mushrooming stem cell therapy centres and their advertisements promising autism cures, the NMC’s ethics and medical registration board formed a committee to investigate the prescription, recommendation, or administration of such treatment. The committee’s report was submitted on December 6 and uploaded on December 14.
The medical community has applauded the order, claiming that there is no scientific basis for the treatment that patients have been paying for for years.
Dr Sameer Dalwai of Nanavati Max Hospital, Vile Parle said, “Autism is a chronic disease with slow results. And it has a stigma. However, desperate parents fall for such publicity gimmicks because this therapy is well marketed not only in the city but across the country.”
Every week, the hospital receives at least one patient in the 7-8 age group whose parents have tried, but failed, to treat autism with stem cell therapy. “Parents fall for stem cell advertisements due to the stigma or being told by doctors that there will be little or slow improvement in their child. “Many patients have stopped treatment in the middle and opted for the therapy, hoping to see the miracle cure it promises,” he said, adding that each therapy reportedly costs between Rs. 3 and Rs. 4 lakhs.
The Indian Academy of Paediatrics’ neuro-developmental paediatric chapter had also written to all government officials, urging them to take action.
According to Parul Kumtha, trustee of the Forum for Autism, the therapy lacked sufficient evidence of efficacy and was not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
“Many parents have mortgaged their jewellery and property to cover the cost of treatment. If a medical centre is conducting research on stem cell therapy, the patients should not be charged. Furthermore, as stated in the NMC order, there is no cure for autism, and promising one is medically unethical,” she said.
According to Dr. Milan Balakrishnan, a psychiatrist and member of the Bombay Psychiatric Society, the patient’s irritability and aggression increase after the therapy.
“A boy aged 15-year-old suffering with autism was recently brought to us. He had a tantrum and even hit his parents. We had to use medication to control the outbursts. “The parents told us that after the procedure, their son’s aggression developed as a new symptom,” he said.