A patient suffering from chronic knee pain walks into his doctor’s office for his six-month cortisone shot. The patient is a classic osteoarthritis sufferer who swears by the injections. That is good enough for the doctor to continue their semi-annual relationship. Fair enough. But what if that same patient were to dispense with cortisone shots and elect for PRP therapy instead?
Scenarios like this one are not all that uncommon these days. More and more people are electing to give regenerative medicine a try rather than continue with steroid injections or move on to long-term pain medications or surgical procedures. Yet a very vocal group within the medical community continues to decry the use of regenerative medicine under the guise of such procedures not being proven. That needs to change. Regenerative medicine deserves an objective look.
Arguing against regenerative medicine procedures like stem cell and PRP therapies based on them being unproven is sketchy, at best. If we apply the same argument against the use of corticosteroids to treat osteoarthritis, a lot of doctors and patients would be forced to start over again. Should we apply those same arguments? Perhaps.
According to a recent article written by Dr. John Gelber and published by the Huffington Post, the efficacy of cortisone injections has never been solidly proved. In fact, Doctor Gelber maintains that thousands of papers written over the last five decades do not stand up to “rigorous scientific analysis.”
Gelber goes on to explain that science knows corticosteroids have both anti-inflammatory and immunologic benefits. He also acknowledges that studies have shown in a small number of patients that injections can offer some measure of pain relief. No one knows why this is so. But more importantly, corticosteroids do nothing to help rebuild the lost cartilage that is part and parcel with osteoarthritis. Why it is used as a common treatment for osteoarthritis therefore requires a more thorough explanation if we are to only use ‘proven’ treatments.
What must always be understood about medicine is that it has but one primary goal: to provide the patient with the desired outcome. Everyone in medicine knows this inherently. In fact, that is why so few have any objection to using corticosteroids as an osteoarthritis treatment. If patients perceive some sort of benefit from the injections, and those injections do not pose any physical harm, then they should be made available.
Doesn’t regenerative medicine deserve the same consideration? It sure does. Regenerative medicine procedures like PRP and stem cell therapies for orthopedic injuries have not undergone strict FDA scrutiny because such scrutiny is not required. However, they are being studied scientifically so as to prove their efficacy above and beyond anecdotal evidence. While we await the evidence, it is fair to ask about patient perceptions and outcomes.
At Advanced Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI), a Utah company that trains doctors in the use of PRP and stem cell therapies, patient outcomes are a key part of training. ARMI has already worked with more than 200 doctors and clinics to introduce regenerative medicine to patients. They explain that the regenerative medicine market is exploding because patients want the treatments. More importantly, many of those patients swear by regenerative medicine.
Regenerative medicine has satisfied the needs of untold numbers of patients, just as cortisone shots have. It’s time we look at such procedures as objectively as we look at the use of corticosteroids. If we apply the same rules of objectivity, it becomes clear that PRP and stem cell therapies deserve a legitimate place at the treatment table.