Google will now allow ads for stem cell treatments that have been licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration, reversing its previous policy of banning all ads for this experimental type of medical therapy.
Stem cell therapy ads are no longer banned from Google
Stem cell therapy is a broad term for medical treatments that use stem cells, which can develop into any cell type. There are some evidence-based applications for the cells, like to treat some cancers, and there are around two dozen FDA-approved cell- and gene-therapy products (which Google’s new policy would allow ads for).
Cell or gene therapy ads that are “exclusively instructional or informational in nature,” even if they reference goods or applications that have not been approved by the FDA, will be allowed. It’s unclear how Google would define “educational” or “informational,” or what kinds of ads would be permitted under that umbrella.
But most uses for stem cells are unproven, experimental, and can be dangerous. Clinics claim the cells, taken from donated umbilical cords or from patients’ fat, can treat things like joint pain or eye conditions. People have developed infections and died after getting those types of procedures. The FDA has tried to crack down on businesses offering these types of procedures, but they’ve proliferated over the past few years.
Google’s initial ban on stem cell ads hasn’t done much to keep the clinics from popping up in search, Paul Knoepfler, a professor at the UC Davis School of Medicine, wrote in Stat in March. Even if they can’t advertise, the companies have designed websites that appear at the top of search results for searches related to stem cells — above more reputable medical resources, like the National Institutes of Health.
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