Virginia clinic patients who got ineffective stem cell treatments: They played on our pain
The promise from a new medical clinic in Virginia was to treat chronic pain without highly addictive medication. With a combination of electronic stimulation and stem cell injections, patients suffering from neuropathy had a nearly 90 percent success rate.
But five patients and their spouses told 7 On Your Side, they must all be part of a very unlucky 10 percent.
“I feel violated, robbed,” said John Gause, a 77-year old patient from Fredericksburg. “Someone didn’t come into my house. But they robbed my heart.”
And his bank account.
Gause paid $6,940 out of pocket. Isidore Emanuel paid $8,000 for his wife’s treatment. Marvin Pitts paid $8,600. Joe Lewis paid $11,600. Bob Brown paid $8,750, but will pay much more, because he financed it with a high interest loan.
These patients are all retired, some military, most on fixed incomes. They all suffer from neuropathy. Walking, even a short distance, can be excruciating.
“It’s like walking on glass, on pins and needles,” explained Gause, a former Army nurse with 27 air medals and three Purple Hearts. “A burning pain like your foot is always asleep.”
“It’s unbelievable,” said Joe Lewis. “Like walking on hot coals.”
For the debilitating pain of neuropathy, the patients and their spouses turned to a new clinic in Woodbridge, Virginia called RegenPath.
The pitch was attractive because it claimed to offer a non-pharmaceutical solution: electronic impulses and stem cell injections.
The cost of the so-called breakthrough program? $19,000. But a “worksheet” indicated that insurance would pick up some of the cost. Oh, and “case acceptance” is “priceless.”
But that, they were told, was not guaranteed.
“It was almost like torture during the interview, putting you in suspense,” said Mr. Emanuel. His wife Alexandra suffers from neuropathy, and she was desperate to be “accepted” into the clinic.
“It’s heart wrenching, it is,” said Emanuel. “My wife said, ‘Do you mean I’m not accepted?’ He [the clinic owner] did not answer, gave stories, before he finally accepted. My wife said, ‘Thank you, God.’ It was a fraud.”
Bob Brown’s wife Rita did not feel right after the initial screening either.
“Like being with a used car salesman,” said Mrs. Brown. “It was a scam from the beginning, that’s my feelings.”
But hope pushed aside doubt, and the patients underwent dozens of treatments. None of the patients said he is better. A few said their symptoms are worse.
7 On Your Side tracked down the medical director, Dr. Leroy Graham of Newport News. His license hangs on the Woodbridge clinic’s wall, but the patients said they never met the doctor in person. We emailed the doctor and left messages at his office in Newport News, but he never returned our calls.
We did reach the clinic’s owner, Keith London, who promoted the therapy with a former employee on our sister station, News Channel 8, last year, a few months after the clinic had opened.
In March, Mr. London called us back and spoke off the record. He declined to give an interview or statement that we can share publicly. He explained that, after one year of operation, his Woodbridge clinic is closed. He promised to email an explanation of what happened to 7 On Your Side. That never happened.
7 On Your Side figured out what happened anyway.
On its corporate website, the RegenPath program promises physicians a business structure that’s “100% cash pay, low investment, low risk” and “easily delegated and profitable within days.”
But we learned that the RegenPath corporate office sent a cease and desist letter to London in December, around the time he changed the clinic’s name to RegenHealth, with centers in Woodbridge, Charlottesville, and Hampton Roads.
RegenPath’s Vice President, Paul Todd told us: “Mr. London is still illegally using our name … RegenPath is not associated with Mr. London or his practices … he is simply trying to steal bits and pieces of different regenerative medicine programs.”
Todd claims that the business model and the treatment are effective, if done right. He said that he has seen patients’ neuropathy improve dramatically with just one stem cell injection.
However, Liveyon, the California company which provides the stem cells, “does not promote its use for neuropathy … and discloses that our product is not FDA-approved,” its Chief Compliance Officer told 7 On Your Side.
The unhappy patients say they learned too late the stem cell injections were not government approved, which means insurance money is not coming. Nor is a cure.
“I was promised he could cure me,” said Mr. Pitts.
“I was desperate and I fell for it,” said Mr. Lewis.
“I think they were playing on all of our pain,” said Mr. Brown.
A few of the patients filed complaints with the Virginia Attorney General and the Department of Health Professions. DHP is investigating.
“I feel fraud has been committed,” said Gause. “They took my money, now they’re not open, and they have denied me the rest of the treatment they promised.”
Mr. Gause pleaded his case with his credit card company, which refunded a portion of his bill. But he wants Mr. London and RegenHealth to refund all of their accounts. If the Virginia Attorney General doesn’t take up their case, he hopes a private practice lawyer with a big heart will help his broken one.