DES MOINES, Iowa (CN) — The attorneys general for Iowa and Nebraska sued an Omaha-based stem cell therapy center Thursday, claiming it committed consumer fraud by making unproven claims in both states that its therapies can cure or prevent disease and even turn back the aging clock.
Iowa and Nebraska allege in complaints filed in each state that the Regenerative Medicine and Anti-Aging Institutes of Omaha made false claims primarily targeted at senior citizens that the company’s therapies using stem cells or extracellular structures called exosomes can “treat, cure, prevent, or reverse many medical conditions, such as osteoarthritis, neuropathy, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Alzheimer’s disease, chronic pain, joint pain, and other ailments.”
Regenerative Medicine marketed its products to Iowans and Nebraskans primarily through seminars held at local hotels promoted in newspaper and TV ads. Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson estimates Nebraskans spent a total of $2 million in 2018 and 2019 on the treatments that cost between $1,400 and $27,000.
“Regardless of the ailment, defendants sought to be the costly cure-all,” the Iowa complaint states. “They targeted older Iowans, many afflicted with serious medical problems involving painful and chronic symptoms, with claims consumers could ‘get your life back!’ For consumers without any apparent health issues, defendants claimed they could slow or prevent illnesses that had not been detected. They charged victims thousands of dollars for these treatments, which are not covered by insurance.”
Iowa alleges the company violated the state’s Consumer Fraud Act and Older Iowans Act. Nebraska alleges violations of the state’s Consumer Fraud Act and the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practice Act.
Both lawsuits seek injunctions against Regenerative Medicine, disgorgement of money obtained through consumer fraud, financial restoration for defrauded consumers and civil penalties.
In addition to the Omaha company, the suits name as defendants Travis Autor and Emily Autor, both of Las Vegas, Nevada, and majority owners of the company. Courthouse News was unable to reach any of the defendants for comment Thursday.
According to the office of Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, which cited a 2019 story in the Spokane Spokesman-Review, “Travis Autor has operated stem cell centers in several states, including Arizona and Idaho. He lost his chiropractor license in 2009 in a settlement with the state of Washington over allegations of double-billing, having sex with a patient and smoking marijuana during lunch breaks at his business.”
Miller told reporters in a news conference Thursday that the law concerning health care claims is very strong. Those making such claims must have “substantial medical and scientific evidence to back up the claims,” he said. “They had none of that.”
While some of the company’s promotional materials contained disclaimers that not all customers respond to stem cell treatments, according to the Iowa complaint, the defendants’ direct-mail ads made claims such as: “If you suffer from injured or degenerative conditions in your back, knees, hips, shoulders or have arthritic joints or suffer from neuropathy or respiratory diseases like COPD, Stem Cell Therapy can help get you out of pain and discomfort!”
Nebraska’s attorney general, Peterson, said the defendants not only took consumers’ money, “they gave them false hope.”
The Food and Drug Administration has informed the public, “especially patients, health care practitioners, and clinics, of multiple recent reports of serious adverse events experienced by patients in Nebraska who were treated with unapproved [stem cell] products marketed as containing exosomes,” according to the Nebraska complaint.
There currently are no FDA-approved stem cell or exosome products, the lawsuits state.