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Philippines rules on stem cell treatment

Regulations follow rise in popularity of stem cell therapy

Gulf News

Manila: The Philippine government has issued a definitive stand against the use of aborted foetuses or human embryos for stem cell treatment while approaching such new medical procedures with caution.

The government, through the Department of Health (DOH), said it saw the need to cover regulations for stem cell therapy following the increasing popularity of such medical procedures in the country as an increasing number of clinics now offer these services.

“The Philippine Government will not allow the use of aborted fetuses or human embryos. It is ensured that the biological raw materials are documented and validated and follow infection-free procedures,” it said.

Stem cell theraphy involves injecting stem cells to a person as part of medical therapy to restore and rejuvenate bodily functions. Treatment cost millions of pesos and some celebrities and politicians have attested to its effectiveness in improving their health and overall wellbeing. Among well-known people who had admitted to undergoing stem cell therapy are former president and now member of the House of Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

But the DOH said the procedure is still in its development stages and there could be ethical questions surrounding its use in the country.

The Philippines is a predominantly Christian with largely conservative views on medical processes. Abortion is banned in the country.

“There is need to know if the materials to be injected came from animals or from human tissues,” the DOH said.

The DOH said stem cell therapy belongs to the category of Advanced Cell therapy which includes biologics and blood.

“Many countries around the world apply a risk-based approach to assess the quality, efficacy and safety of advanced cell therapy. In many countries, stem cell is considered an investigational intervention,” it said.

The DOH furthered that it is approaching stem cell treatment with caution because involves autologous (from same person) or allogenic (from another organism like animal or another human cell or tissue sample) there us a need to issue a regulatory framework for its use to protect Filipinos.

According to Health Secretary Enrique Ona, he had convened a consultative working task force to provide recommendations on how to proceed with this relatively new area of medicine in response to queries and mushrooming of centres in the Philippines and overseas. This led to the creation of a regulatory task force to oversee the appropriate steps that will ensure quality, efficacy and safety documentation of this intervention.

Earlier, the Philippines, which has a high number of medical practitioners has batted for “medical tourism” to improve foreign currency inflows and provide high paying jobs to its professionals.