Advertisement
  1. News

Unsatisfied former patient files class-action lawsuit against Lung Institute

Published Aug. 26, 2016

TAMPA — Diagnosed with lung disease and determined to shed her oxygen tank, Tammy Rivero resorted to an unorthodox treatment.

In 2014, Rivero took out a home equity loan to pay $7,500 and traveled from her western North Carolina home to Florida to undergo stem-cell therapy at the Lung Institute in Tampa. The institute claimed she would see results in a matter of weeks, according to a lawsuit Rivero filed last week.

Instead, according to the suit, she got worse. Now Rivero, 58, is the first of what her attorney says are dozens of former patients seeking class-action status in a legal action against the institute.

Rivero's suit says the Lung Institute violated Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act by duping clients into believing stem-cell therapy worked despite the absence of credible medical evidence.

"It's one thing for folks that have an incurable disease to try experimental treatments," said Rivero's attorney, Ben Vinson Jr. of Tampa. "But it's another when the person offering the treatment knows it doesn't work."

Speaking for the institute, Lynne Flaherty Margnelli, executive vice president of Regenerative Medicine Solutions, said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times: "Lung Institute prides itself on putting patient care first and always operates with the patients' best interests in mind. We do not believe the case has any merit and we look forward to resolving this matter."

A 2015 Times story said there is little evidence that the institute's treatment works for patients with incurable lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

Dr. Burton Feinerman, who was medical director at the Lung Institute when the Times story ran, said then that the American medical establishment is too slow to embrace developments.

"The U.S. is so far behind the rest of the world, it's pathetic," said Feinerman, who has since retired. "Doctors are not scientists. They know how to read a cookbook, but God forbid if you want to add a new recipe."

Stem cells can reproduce themselves to repair tissues and mature into cells that perform a specific function, such as in the skin, muscle or blood. As part of the institute's treatment, adult stem cells are harvested from individual patients and later reintroduced into the body with the promise to restore deteriorating tissue, such as lung tissue scarred by COPD.

According to the suit, the cost of the procedures ranged from $5,000 to $12,000. The suit claims the institute, which occupies a fourth floor of a downtown Tampa office building, brings in at least $2 million a month.

Each patient is responsible for paying the full cost of the procedure because the institute does not accept health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. The suit claims the institute urged prospective patients who could not afford the cost of the procedure to raise the funds through bake sales and Kickstarter campaigns.

Vinson said Rivero was not told that she would have to pay for followup treatments, which she could not afford.

Contact Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Joshua Michael Nichols, 21, was arrested by Pasco County Sheriff's deputies on Saturday in connection to the early morning shooting death of an unidentified man during an argument outside a Spring Hill home. [Pasco County Sheriff's Office] ANASTASIA DAWSON  |  Pasco County Sheriff's Office
    One person is in custody. The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.
  2. Yesterday• Pasco
    Dr. Rao Musunuru, MD, received his third “Paul Harris Award.” the highest recognition from the Rotary Club, on Aug. 15. The pin was presented to Dr. Musunuru, a nationally-recognized cardiologist, by Rotary 6950 District Governor Allen Collins in recognition of his humanitarian and philanthropic services to the people of Pasco County and the State of Florida for nearly 40 years. Pictured: Dr. Rao Musunuru, MD, (left) and Rotary 6950 District Governor Allen Collins. Jemith Rosa/Hudson Rotary Club
    News and notes about your neighbors
  3. A Lancaster County Sheriff's deputy walks around the Old Skool Sports Bar and Grill, the scene of a shooting early in the morning, north of Lancaster, S.C. on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019.  Lancaster County Sherriff's Office said in a statement that the agency was investigating a fatal shooting that also injured several people.  (Jessica Holdman/The Post And Courier via AP) JESSICA HOLDMAN  |  AP
    Two adult males were shot and killed.
  4. Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, right, listens to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, left, during the Youth Climate Summit at United Nations headquarters, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019.  (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez) EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ  |  AP
    Swedish 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg started the climate strike movement with her lone protest in front of her country’s parliament.
  5. Stay with tampabay.com for the latest news and updates. Times
    She was not in a crosswalk when she was hit, troopers say.
  6. Vice President Mike Pence reacts during an immigration and naturalization ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) ALEX BRANDON  |  AP
    Katie Waldman, a former University of Florida student senator, was accused of helping discard independent student newspapers with a front-page endorsement of a rival party’s candidate. | Analysis
  7. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. JAMAL THALJI  |  Tampa Bay Times
    John Clark used a shotgun to kill his mother and another man. Then he returned to the crime scene with a shotgun, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
  8. Sandra Gero, a regional search associate at Ray and Associates, hosts a meeting at the Middleton High School auditorium and gathers public comments on what people are looking for for the next Hillsborough County School Superintendent on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019 in Tampa. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    Using public meetings and a survey, they’re painting a picture of the ideal school leader.
  9. The main exhibit center at the Museum of Science & Industry in Tampa once stirred the imagination with dinosaurs and stars. Now, it's empty, but on the verge of rebirth as a movie studio.
    The County Commission has set aside $2 million for the project as the Film Commission studies the demand for it.
  10. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the East Room of the White House, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP
    Hunter Biden worked for a Ukrainian gas company.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement