The Cost of Stem Cell Therapy in 2020

How much does stem cell therapy cost?

Stem cell therapies have become very popular in recent years, as people are seeking the latest alternative treatments for their many conditions. However, despite the large surge in demand for stem cell therapies, they still remain very expensive to pursue. Even simple joint injections can cost nearly USD 1,000 and more advanced treatments can rise in cost up to USD 100,000 depending on the condition. So, why are stem cell treatments so expensive?
Image via DVC Stem

How much does stem cell treatment cost?

Stem cell therapy cost can be influenced by:
  1. The type of stem cells administered
  2. Where the treatment is being performed
  3. If the cells have been culturally expanded
  4. If the cells are ethically sourced, viable & regulated
  5. Where the laboratory is located (for cell expansion)
It is also important to note that the cost of stem cell therapy will vary depending on the type of treatment needed. Stem cell therapy cost for knees may differ from stem cell therapy cost for COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). The area and issue being treated should generally influence the cost of the associated treatment because different cell types, cell counts and treatment protocols will be needed. For example, an effective stem cell therapy cost for MS (multiple sclerosis) will be much different than the cost of a site injection for localized pain.

‍Stem cell therapy cost can range anywhere between USD 5000 - USD 50,000. Patients must do their research and ask as many questions as they can before financially committing to treatment. Make sure to know how many cells you are getting, where those cells come from, if they are viable, is the clinic/lab is regulated, and ask for as detailed info to be provided as possible. When considering a potentially life-changing treatment, prospective patients should be weighing these other important factors, in addition to cost, when determining the best location for experimental procedures.

So why is stem cell therapy so expensive?

The short answer to that question is that the stem cell field is still highly specialized and has not been adopted by the mainstream and insurance companies. Additionally, the field is further restricted by older laws in the United States. That means that there are very few sources for stem cells, labs that are equipped to process stem cells, and reputable clinics that provide the treatments, most of which are located outside the US. Just as with an expensive food or item of clothing, the problem is with availability and production cost.

To fully understand the cost, you first have to look at the treatment preparation process. Stem cells are first acquired by companies that pay hospitals for donated cord tissue (depending on the countries), or by doctors that perform fat tissue or bone marrow extractions. The cells are then sent to separate companies which run laboratories that specialize in stem cell expansion. These labs usually have very qualified and specialized staff members and are under the strict regulations of the FDA. The cells are then shipped in cryo-storage overnight around the world to the stem cell clinic. These clinics are staffed with doctors, nurses, and support staff that all play a part in the patient’s experience. This includes everything from marketing, to logistics and the actual medical care. In every stage of this process, there are heavy costs associated with time and labor, before the patient is ever given treatment.

How much do stem cell injections cost?

These treatments can range from USD 4000 - USD 8,000 in the United States. Adipose (fat) and Bone Marrow stem cell treatments can be effective for certain orthopaedic conditions, but studies have shown that they are not a viable treatment option for chronic widespread inflammation or autoimmune conditions due to a variety of factors including lower cell count and potency. This is what makes expanded cord tissue-derived stem cells so revolutionary.

Allogenic stem cell therapy consists of cells extracted from cord tissue, or “Wharton’s Jelly”. Umbilical cord tissue can have some of the most powerful, primal mesenchymal stem cells that can be found. Studies have shown that stem cells, at the point of birth are at their peak of potency, unaffected by the aging process or disease. However the administration of culturally expanded cells in the United States is largely not authorized according to FDA sections 351 and 361. Stem cell therapy cost for culturally expanded cells ranges from USD 15,000 - USD 30,000.

Legal Environment

Due to the nature of the laws in place, there are no forms of government assistance or incentives for any of these companies, unlike large drug companies. The cost of healthcare in the US is astronomical, but that is still with the large support structure in place for these healthcare companies. With no such support, the stem cell industry is left to provide treatment to patients, which incur most of the cost. Without coverage by most major insurance providers, the only option for patients is either to pay for treatment outright, fundraise for their treatment, or use other forms of financing to fund themselves. In many ways, stem cell therapies are not priced differently than many major drugs and treatments, but patients do not always see the cost when working through their insurance. Stem cell therapy then becomes a personal choice. It is often sought after by patients that have had little success with conventional therapies, and wish to try an alternative. Stem cell medicine is still an emerging field and offers hope to many people to overcome their conditions.

Unfortunately, until stem cell medicine is more accepted into the mainstream and the laws are changed to encourage the field to develop, it will remain a highly specialized niche in healthcare. For this reason, treatment costs are not likely to change anytime soon. The best an inquiring patient can do is find a reputable clinic that provides treatments using the highest quality stem cells available to ensure they receive the best results possible.


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