After bravely taking advertising money from health scams, Google finally says no to ads for unproven stem cell treatments.
New Policy: Google, which earns more than $ 110 billion a year in online ad revenue, said in a statement posted on its ad pages that under the new policy it will now " prohibit ads that sell treatments that have no established biomedical or scientific basis. "
The policy will cover a host of false cures for cancer and ALS, as well as treatments that are under investigation but do not have enough "formal clinical testing to justify widespread clinical use." Advertising will be permitted for government-sanctioned clinical trials, according to the Washington Post .
Big Issue: Stem cell clinic ads have been a fixture in Google's search results for years, despairing desperate patients of a growing industry of doctors collecting blood or other cells from patients, and then re-injecting them. Statements by celebrating NFL players and others have helped to spread the nursery to sports medicine and orthopedic centers.
The treatments have little evidence to support their use and can be dangerous. Several people have ended up blinded or developed bizarre tumors . In China, the search giant Baidu was rescued after a 21-year-old college student died from a treatment he learned about in a promoted search result.
Growing embarrassment: Google's advertising for shame medicine became a bigger responsibility in 2015 after the company launched Calico, a company that seeks remedies for aging, and a health research subsidiary called Verily.
"We know that important medical findings often start out as untested ideas," Google said in today's statement. "At the same time, we have seen an increase in poor players trying to take advantage of individuals by offering untested, deceptive treatments."
Hype Problem: Stem cells have been designated as cure for just about anything, and some medical clinics claim the procedures are also exempt from regulation if they involve a person's own cells, such as fat, blood concentrate or bone marrow.
However, the US Food and Drug Administration has sometimes pursued the clinics, won a case this summer against a Florida stem cell company, US Stem Cell, and issued a broad warning to consumers earlier this week.
Experts intervened: According to the International Society for Stem Cell Research, a body representing academic researchers, it helped draw Google's attention to the role of advertisements in harming patients. In early 2019, leaders of the internet giant were invited to presentations on the problems caused by the clinics as part of the National Academy of Sciences & # 39; Forum on Regenerative Medicine .
"Google's new policy banning the promotion of speculative drugs is a much-needed and welcome step to curb the marketing of unscrupulous medical products," said the community's president, Deepak Srivastava, in a statement. "While stem cells have great potential for To help us understand and treat a wide range of diseases, most stem cell interventions are still experimental and should only be offered to patients through well-regulated clinical trials. "
Ads still visible: Washington Post, which first reported on the new advertising policy , says it will take effect in October, and a Google search today from Cambridge, Massachusetts, still returned many ads, such as the Boston Stem Cell Center, which sells a variety of treatments involving a person's own cells.
Google as regulator? Andrew Ittleman, a Miami attorney working for stem cell clinics, told to Post that the advertising ban could penalize "good" companies trying to comply with regulations as well as bad actors. Ittleman said some clinics were already banned by Google from two years ago.
"It puts Google in the position of being a quasi-regulator, and assumes quite considerable jurisdiction," he told the Post. "They paint the industry with a broad brush."