Attorney General’s Office shuts down US Stemology’s deceptive marketing, including claims that stem cell injections could treat COVID-19
SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today announced that, as a result of his lawsuit against the company, Seattle-based US Stemology and its owner, Dr. Tami Meraglia, cannot advertise, market or receive any payment for unproven stem cell treatments. US Stemology must also pay $500,000 to the Attorney General’s Office, which will be used to provide restitution for those who paid for stem cell procedures. 107 individuals paid for the procedures and are eligible for restitution.
In March, Ferguson filed a lawsuit against the company, asserting it claimed in its marketing that stem cell injections could treat COVID-19 and dozens of other serious medical conditions, including asthma, lupus, Parkinson’s disease, congestive heart failure and multiple sclerosis. There is no reliable clinical evidence stem cell therapy can effectively treat these conditions.
After the Attorney General’s Office began its investigation, US Stemology stopped performing stem procedures in June 2021, and has not performed any procedures since.
Some people paid up to $10,000 for the unproven treatments. Due to medical privacy laws, the Attorney General’s Office cannot obtain information about US Stemology’s clients unless those clients provide a waiver. All 107 people eligible for restitution will receive a letter from US Stemology in the mail in the next two months, which asks them to provide some information to the Attorney General’s Office for the purpose of providing the refunds. Individuals must complete this form to receive their refund.
“Dr. Meraglia and US Stemology advertised stem cells as a life-changing miracle cure that could treat almost anything — even COVID,” Ferguson said. “They preyed on people’s fears and frustrations about their health to sell hundreds of thousands of dollars in unproven treatments. Our work put a stop to US Stemology’s modern day snake-oil scheme.”
Under the consent decree, filed in King County Superior Court, the company must pay $500,000 to the Attorney General’s Office, which will be used as restitution for those who paid for Dr. Meraglia’s stem cell treatments. The company must pay $300,000 in suspended penalties if they violate the terms of the consent decree.
The Attorney General’s Office has independently verified that US Stemology lacks the funds to pay the full judgment amount immediately. The company is required to pay the $500,000 within 24 months, at a 6 percent interest rate. The Attorney General’s Office will provide restitution before utilizing any remainder to cover the cost of the case and future enforcement of the Consumer Protection Act.
Under the consent decree, the company also cannot claim its treatments are part of a “clinical trial” without proper FDA approval. In its marketing to consumers, the company claimed it was treating patients as part of clinical trials. In reality, the “trials” did not follow generally accepted standards of scientific research — and the researchers themselves led the “independent review” of the trials.
Details of the case
US Stemology owns the Seattle Stem Cell Center in lower Queen Anne. The Attorney General’s Office was first alerted to this case when a concerned Washingtonian reported the company’s false claims that it could treat and prevent COVID-19. The company made these claims for at least three months in the early stages of the pandemic.
For example, an ad from the company claimed that a “critically ill” COVID patient got better from stem cell treatments. In spring 2020, the company posted a downloadable “Free Coronavirus Thriving Guide,” that called stem cell treatment “your personalized ‘vaccine’ against getting sick with COVID-19.”
After the Attorney General’s Office sent a cease and desist letter, the company removed from its website the claims that stem cells are effective against COVID-19.
While looking into the consumer complaint, investigators at the Attorney General’s Office discovered that the company claimed it could treat dozens of other conditions — including serious heart, autoimmune and neurological conditions — without reliable scientific evidence that stem cell treatments are effective in treating them.
US Stemology began marketing that it could treat these conditions starting as early as 2018. Meraglia began the stem cell clinic out of the basement of the medispa she owned, which mostly performed aesthetic and cosmetic treatments at the time.
The Seattle Stem Cell Center performed its stem cell “treatments” on over 100 patients for a host of serious, chronic conditions, including asthma, muscular dystrophy, stroke, diabetes and Crohn’s disease.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved stem cell treatments for some blood disorders, but these procedures use a different cell type than what US Stemology used. The FDA has not approved stem cell treatments for any other condition. Health insurance plans generally do not cover stem cell treatments.
Assistant Attorneys General Daniel Davies and Logan Starr, investigators Anton Forbes and Eric Peters, paralegal Rosa Hernandez and legal assistant Michelle Paules are working on the case.
If you see suspicious or unproven claims about health treatments, report it to the Attorney General’s Office by filing a complaint at https://www.atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.
Washington’s Attorney General serves the people and the state of Washington. As the state’s largest law firm, the Attorney General’s Office provides legal representation to every state agency, board, and commission in Washington. Additionally, the Office serves the people directly by enforcing consumer protection, civil rights, and environmental protection laws. The Office also prosecutes elder abuse, Medicaid fraud, and handles sexually violent predator cases in 38 of Washington’s 39 counties. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.email@example.com
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