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'Stamina' researchers valued money over patients, says panel

'Improper interests in public funding' linked to marred therapy

13 January, 15:31
'Stamina' researchers valued money over patients, says panel (ANSA) - Rome, January 13 - A report on the controversial 'Stamina' stem-cell treatment has alleged the foundation behind it was illegally pursuing financial interests above the common good. In a copy of the report obtained by ANSA, a panel of experts appointed by Italy's health ministry in December said the Stamina Foundation displayed "evidence of commercial interests, improperly linked to possible public funding and in clear conflict with the primary interest defined by the letter and spirit of (the law)". The contents of the report have dealt several blows to the treatment, calling its central premise flawed and accusing its practitioners of ignorance in the field of stem-cell biology. "Some sections of the protocol were copied from Wikipedia," added the report. Supporters of the therapy say it could be a cure for fatal degenerative nerve diseases such as spinal muscular atrophy, while detractors say it is devoid of scientific merit.

The first expert panel that the Italian government appointed had been asked to come up with a trial design for the therapy.

However, it concluded in September that the treatment has no scientific merit and that there was no point in doing the study, for which the Italian government had allocated three million euros.

Following a public outcry including demonstrations by wheelchair-bound patients threatening to turn off their oxygen supply in protest, Italy's health ministry appointed a second expert panel in December.

But it appears to have reached the same conclusions as the first panel, recommending the treatment not be administered in public hospitals.

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