In the last weeks of the legislative session, Texas lawmakers passed a historic bill that legalizes investigative stem cell treatments for chronically ill patients. Despite the prevalence of unregulated stem cell clinics in the United States, this could be the first time a state has authorized the treatment for chronic illnesses, if the state’s governor approves the legislation.
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PHOEBE GAVIN, ThinkProgress: You’ll never guess which state is on track to become the first to recognize stem cell therapy as a treatment for chronic illnesses. I’ll give you a hint: it’s former governor and our former president once banned federal funding for research on embryonic stem cells
You guessed it: It’s The Lone Star State!
In the last week of its legislative session, Texas lawmakers approved a bill that legalizes ‘Investigational Stem Cell Treatment,’ which basically means treatments that have been evaluated by an institutional review board but have not yet been approved by the FDA.
Keep in mind, though: this isn’t about embryonic stem cells. The cells will come from banked umbilical cords and the patients themselves, who will be allowed to pursue the treatment as a last resort. So people who suffer from debilitating chronic illnesses like Parkinson’s, ALS, and multiple sclerosis could see relief.
For TX Rep. Springer, this is personal.
REP. DREW SPRINGER (R-TX68): I pray to God every time I go to mass, every time I close my eyes, that one day my wife — and not for my sake, but for her sake — would have the chance to have that opportunity again to be able to walk.
GAVIN: The bill almost missed the deadline until he came to the podium. After his plea, it unanimously passed the House and sailed through the Senate. It now awaits Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature, and he’s already tweeted his support for it.
But not everyone is on board. Two different stem-cell research organizations have vocalized their opposition, arguing that the lack of quote ‘rigorous evidence of safety and efficacy’ would put vulnerable patients at risk.
But the reality is, patients have already been taking this risk without the state’s explicit authorization. There are hundreds of clinics across the country that have been operating under regulatory loopholes — at least 71 in TX alone. Without regulation, these clinics are completely unchecked. And patients who seek help there have felt the consequences: they’ve been blinded, developed tumors and even died after seeking unregulated stem cell treatment. But with this new bill, if something goes wrong, patients have the right to sue.
So there you go — Texas, creating accountability for stem cell clinics for the first time in the US. An unprecedented act from a unpredictable state.