'Live stem cell pills' promoted online cannot cure diseases: health experts

Health experts have warned social media users not to fall for online adverts shared widely in the Philippines and other parts of Asia that promote a "pill containing live stem cells" they claim "can help cure any disease". While scientists have been studying how stem cell therapies could treat various diseases, live stem cells are neither administered through pills nor ingested through such treatments. The Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said the promoted product "Purtier Placenta" is a food supplement with "no approved therapeutic claims".

"Purtier Placenta is live Stem Cell that helps regenerate and restore our body cells, and help cure any illness in our body," claims a Facebook post by a Philippines-based user on November 5, 2022.

The lengthy post purportedly includes photos of the "Purtier Placenta" pills.

"Product is made in a capsule form, it has live stem cells inside," the post adds. It lists conditions that the pill can supposedly help cure, including diabetes; various types of cancer; and Alzheimer's disease.

Stem cells are primitive cells that, as they grow, differentiate into the various specialised cells that make up the different organs such as the brain and the heart.

Scientists hope to create stem cells in the lab and nudge them to grow into these differentiated cells, thus replenishing organs damaged by disease or accident.

A similar Facebook post here touts the same product as "oral live stem cell therapy". It claims the pill is "FDA approved" and contains live stem cells from deer placenta.

A screenshot of the false Facebook post. ( AFP)



Similar adverts for the product have been shared in Facebook posts by users in the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Myanmar.

Comments on the posts indicated some people were interested to purchase the product.

"I need this. How much?" one wrote.

"Do you have any promo today?" another said.

Health experts, however, told AFP these posts make false claims.

'Stem cell pills'

Ahmad Reza Mazahery, an assistant professor at the University of the Philippines with expertise in stem cell biology, told AFP on January 12: "Live cells are not vehicled through capsules like these and definitely could not be sold over the counter as you would any other supplement or vitamins in a capsule."

Stem cells are "a lot more complicated to keep frozen or maintained in active culture", he said, adding that ingesting pills purportedly containing live stem cells "will not do much".

"You may be able to absorb proteins and other nutrients but it will certainly never cure a neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer's disease -- it does not work that way," he said.

Health experts at Meedan, a global technology non-profit organisation, separately told AFP on January 11: "There is no scientific evidence that Purtier Placenta or other brands of supplements claiming to be made of deer placenta stem cells can alleviate or cure any disease or condition."

Food supplement

A Google keyword search found the product was listed as registered with the Philippine FDA here on September 30, 2020.

However, the FDA page says the product is registered as a "Food Supplement with NO APPROVED THERAPEUTIC CLAIMS".

A company that sells "Purtier Placenta" has been previously convicted in a Singapore court "for making false claims" that it cures diseases, according to the country's Health Sciences Authority (HSA).

"Purtier Placenta is a health supplement and is not meant to prevent, treat or cure diseases, or alleviate the symptoms of diseases," the HSA, which regulates health products in Singapore, said in an update on July 23, 2021.

"The claim that Purtier Placenta contains stem cells that are able to help alleviate or cure certain diseases or conditions is false."

"Additionally, stem cells that are taken orally will be destroyed by the enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract as they are protein-based substances."

In 2019, a study published by the Cambridge University Press examined product samples that were touted to contain live deer placenta stem cells -- including "Purtier Placenta" -- and found the pills did not contain live stem cells.