In his latest defiance of the federal government, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is trying to make his state the nation's top provider of an unlicensed therapy touted by some as the future of medicine but considered not close to ready for mainstream use by scientists in the field.
Perry this summer worked with his Houston doctor and a state legislator with multiple sclerosis to write legislation intended to commercialize the controversial therapy, which involves injecting patients with their own stem cells. Perry quietly got the therapy as part of back surgery in July.
"With the right policies in place, we can lead the nation in advancing adult stem cell research that will treat diseases, cure cancers and, ultimately, save lives," Perry wrote the Texas Medical Board on July 25.
The board may squelch Perry's hope of making stem cell therapy a thriving Texas industry any time soon. It is scheduled to consider a new policy Nov. 4 that would prevent doctors from providing stem cell therapy without approval from an independent review committee that assesses research trials for patient safety. Perry's therapy had no such oversight.
Such a policy likely would head off potential conflict with the Food and Drug Administration, which recently has begun to crack down on stem cell businesses in the United States. The FDA has not approved therapy using adult stem cells because their effectiveness and safety have not been established.
The legislation, a bill amendment passed in the special session, would allow private companies to maintain banks that store stem cells taken from prospective patients for future treatment — a service for which the newly established bank of Dr. Stanley Jones, Perry's surgeon, charges $50,000 per patient. The legislation's original draft was written by Jones and tweaked by Perry, according to correspondence obtained through the Texas Public Information Act.