Google bans ads for unproven therapies, including stem cells

Henrietta Strickland
September 10, 2019

Google is stepping up its efforts for reliability by introducing a new healthcare and medicines policy under its advertising policies on its platform.

Biddings said Google will "prohibit advertising for unproven or experimental medical techniques such as most stem cell therapy, cellular (non-stem) therapy and gene therapy".

Biddings continued, saying how these treatments "can lead to unsafe health outcomes" and that because of the potential for bad actor involvement in the program, they feel that advertisements for unproven medical treatments "have no place" on Google's platforms.

The company, based in Mountain View, California, attributed its decision to "a rise in bad actors" trying to take advantage of patients by offering "untested, deceptive treatments", The Washington Post reports.

According to the Post, the ban will affect all of Google's ad services, which includes YouTube ads and ads that the company serves to third-party sites.

In addition, some treatments have resulted in severe injuries, according to the Post, including at least five women who were blinded after stem cell clinics injected products into their eyes.

"While stem cells have great potential to help us understand and treat a wide range of diseases, most stem cell interventions remain experimental and should only be offered to patients through well-regulated clinical trials", Srivastava said.

Still, Google has a long way to go to curb its spread of misleading medical advice.

A study last month in Stem Cell Reports found that unregulated stem cell clinics and treatments can be unsafe for patients because doctors administering the therapies may have no expertise in the condition.

"It puts Google in the position of being a quasi regulator, taking on quite a significant amount of jurisdiction", Ittleman said.

The stem cell industry has seen little regulation in recent years.

Google has assured that it will continue allowing advertisements of research being conducted for clinical trials and when researchers want to promote their findings to the public. The new policy, which will take effect in October, was detailed in a blog post by Adrienne Biddings, the company's policy adviser.

Paul Knoepfler, a stem cell biologist at the University of California at Davis and longtime critic of the for-profit stem cell industry, called the new Google policy a big deal.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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