National / Crime & Legal

Cord blood sellers face arrest over unauthorized therapies

Kyodo

Several people involved in cord blood sales are set to be arrested for aiding cord blood therapies without notifying authorities in advance, investigative sources said Friday.

The police are also looking into criminal charges against doctors believed to have administered cord blood. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is also planning to file criminal complaints against multiple clinics soon.

Cord blood, which can be found in umbilical cords and placenta, contains blood-forming stem cells that are used to treat a number of diseases. Aside from 27 designated diseases, including leukemia, therapies using cord blood need to be reported to the government beforehand to ensure safety.

Businesses suspected of engaging in sales of cord blood that led to treatments without pre-notification include a cord blood dealer in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Police believe the dealer sold cord blood to a medical company in the city of Fukuoka and a clinic in Kyoto before the blood was then distributed to other clinics across the country. Some sellers may have even encouraged clinics to administer cord blood to patients, the police said.

Since last year, police have raided medical facilities including a clinic in Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture, on suspicion of violating the law on the safety of regenerative medicine.

Between May and June, the ministry ordered 12 clinics in Tokyo, Osaka and other cities to suspend treatments after they were found to have administered cord blood for cosmetic therapies or to treat cancer without issuing the required notification. The effectiveness and safety of such therapies are unproven.

The law on the safety of regenerative medicine, which took force in 2014, requires clinics to submit treatment plans before using cord blood donated by a third party. Treatment plans must be reviewed by the ministry’s council, since the transplantation of third-party blood could present risks of graft rejection and infection.

In July police arrested the chairman of a private research institution which managed a health food company where patients were diagnosed patients without a medical license. The police investigation was based on suspicion that he had introduced patients seeking cord blood therapies to the Kyoto clinic.

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