Google ends stem cell therapy ads due to “rise of bad actors”

Some say the modern version of snake oil is unproven stem cell treatments, and Google is cracking down on these types of treatments advertising on its site.

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"A rise in bad actors” prompted Google to update its policy, according to a statement published Thursday by Adrienne Biddings, a policy adviser for Google Global Product Policy.

“We’re announcing a new Health care and medicines policy to prohibit advertising for unproven or experimental medical techniques such as most stem cell therapy, cellular (non-stem) therapy, and gene therapy. This new policy will prohibit ads selling treatments that have no established biomedical or scientific basis. The new policy also includes treatments that are rooted in basic scientific findings and preliminary clinical experience, but currently have insufficient formal clinical testing to justify widespread clinical use.”

- Google’s statement posted by Adrienne Biddings, Policy Adviser

These “bad actors" can take advantage of and offer untested, deceptive treatments to individuals who are often sick and desperate, looking for miracle cures.

Abusers in the industry have been documented, such as the company, U.S. Stem Cell, which was challenged in court by the FDA and lost its case after at least four patients were blinded after the company and its clinics performed stem cell eye treatments.

The stem cell industry has seen little regulation in recent years. Unproven and untested treatments are often used in clinics that serve numerous clients because “these clinics operate mostly in the private health care sector and typically market their interventions directly to patients over the internet,” according to the World Health Organization.

In 2018, Google pulled in approximately $116.3 billion in ad revenue through its Google Ads platform. So far, it is unclear how much money Google will lose from halting these types of stem cell advertisements on its site.

“Digital advertising helps fuel an open internet for people all over the world,” Biddings wrote in the statement. “We know the digital ads ecosystem can only flourish if it’s a place that is safe and trustworthy for users.”

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The ban will take effect in October and will impact Google’s ad services, including YouTube and ads Google places on third-party websites.