Lawsuits claim no live stem cells in umbilical cord blood stem cell products

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Four Texas patients have filed lawsuits claiming that expensive off the shelf stem cell injections caused them to get violently sick.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says those injections to ease pain are not approved by the FDA.

And, worse, their lawyer claims the products that were used don't even contain live stem cells.

We traveled to Texas for this report for one reason.  Medical clinics all across Georgia are marketing and selling to patients what they claim is live called stem cell fluids collected from umbilical cord blood.

In a cramped hallway, inside a Houston Texas attorney's office, David Arriaga and Dorothy O'Connell meet for the first time.  They have something in common.  Both were infected with bacteria after receiving what they believed was a live stem cell treatment.

“Hasn't been easy for me, can't imagine how what it has been like for you,” Arriaga.

They wanted to relieve back pain. Instead, according to this CDC report, they were hospitalized after an injection of a "non-FDA-approved umbilical cord blood" stem cell product. 

“It's something I wouldn't wish on anyone,” said Ms. O’Connell.

And to make it worse - their lawyer, Hartley Hampton, claims in a lawsuit that there are no live stem cells in the product they paid thousands for.

“I think it's selling them something with a bunch of smoke and mirrors,” said Hartley.

The FOX 5 I-Team has been investigating the off-the-shelf stem cell industry for weeks.  Doctors and chiropractors recommend these cryogenically frozen products claiming they contain live stem cells. They inject the fluid into the patient's, backs, knees, joints...hoping to rejuvenate cells and eliminate pain.

The CDC in Atlanta recently reported at least 13 patients in 3 states were hospitalized because of an infection from the bacterial contamination of a stem cell product. Half of those patients were hospitalized for at least two weeks.

“These reactions are very distressing and very concerning for us here at CDC, which is exactly why we wanted to put out the message to make sure patients who are considering stem cell therapies understand the potential risks, particularly when the stem cell therapy is not approved and is being used for unproven uses,” Dr. Krista Powell told us.

David Arriaga was one of the infected patients in the CDC report. He chose stem cell injections to reduce his stabbing back pain. Not long after the shot, he was horribly sick.

“I was done like a turkey Thanksgiving put a fork in me. I was in pain, couldn’t move,” said Arriaga.

Court records indicate Arriaga had a bacterial infection and an abscess near his spine. He was rushed to another hospital for emergency surgery. It took weeks of agonizing pain for Arriaga to recover. Once he did he filed suit. 

“I want to get as much of my health back and I don't want anybody to go through this,” said Arriaga.

“The pain that these folks described was an order of magnitude worse than I'm used to hearing,” said attorney Hartley.

Hartley Hampton is a Houston lawyer. Krista Kurtyan is a doctor and his investigator. He has filed lawsuits on behalf of four different patients who claim they were infected by a stem cell product. Hartley claims in his lawsuit that the product, not only was contaminated and caused his clients to get violently ill, but it "contained no living cells and therefore no "stem cells"  

Reporter: Do you believe there's live stem cells in this product?

Kurtyan: We haven't seen any research that would show that there is.

Reporter: (Is in your is it in your mind a fraud?) Yes.   

And as the patients continue their recovery, right before we arrived in Houston, the CDC told us they will recommend these patients discuss with their doctors whether they should have their blood tested for possible HIV or Hepatitis infections. 

“It's frightening because I mean, it's something you don't think about your loved one contracting,” said Dorothy O’Connell’s daughter.