The FDA brought the lawsuit against Cell Surgical Network Clinic in 2018 in an attempt to assert regulatory authority over stem cell therapies. The agency argued that a physician’s use of his patient’s own stem cells as part of the medical treatment provided to the patient was equivalent to manufacturing a biological drug product and therefore subject to regulation by the FDA.

The court rejected this argument on Tuesday, ruling that the surgical procedure does not create a new prescription drug. The court wrote: “The adipose tissue Defendants remove from patients clearly consists of human cells. And whatever is injected back into patients as part of Defendants’ SVF Surgical Procedure and Expanded MSC Surgical Procedure certainly contains such cells.”

This news opens up the possibilities and sets an important precedent for clinics in the United States to use autologous cellular treatments derived from adipose tissue, giving patients the right to use their own tissue to enhance regenerative processes and fight disease. 

“We appreciate the Court’s clear and unequivocal ruling, which affirms what we have been saying for 12 years: that our innovative surgical approach to personal cell therapy is safe and legal,” said Dr. Elliott Lander, co-founder of CSCTC. “With this victory behind us, we look forward to refocusing our energy on our practice and leveraging life-changing stem cell treatments to support physicians and benefit patients across the country.”

As science advances, it’s inevitable that there will be more diverse forms of treatment with human stem cells. Whether the FDA gets on board and expands its rules about what is and is not legal is another question.

Unfortunately, much of what the FDA does falls into the category of politics. It’s usually unwise to make a decision about a particular kind of therapy or medical treatment based on whether it’s technically, currently legal.

It’s helpful to recall that many treatments that are fully legal began as experimental procedures that were not legally offered to the public but only took place in controlled research environments.

The good news is that stem cell therapy continues to make rapid advances on several different fronts, primarily those related to joint pain and associated discomfort. Athletes have made good use of the treatment and were, in fact, among the first major wave of clients for the technique when it was still brand new. After that, word spread about the effectiveness of stem cell treatment as more and more people turned to it as an alternative to surgery and prescription medication.

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