Purpose: “Cell therapy” is becoming increasingly available to the public via online direct-to-consumer advertisement within the United States (U.S.). The current study investigates the scope of “cell therapy” clinics across the U.S. that advertise and offer “cell therapy” for ocular conditions based on information provided on their websites. Design: Cross-sectional study. Participants: The study included companies that are U.S.-based, participate in direct-to-consumer online marketing, have websites that can be data-mined with content analysis, and advertise therapy for ocular conditions. Methods: Using a systematic, extensive keyword-based Internet search, content analysis of company websites was utilized to identify, document, and analyze U.S. businesses marketing “cell therapy” for ocular conditions as of September 16, 2017. Main Outcome Measures: Clinic locations, source of stem cells used, route of administration, marketed ocular conditions, and cost of treatment. Results: Forty companies with 76 clinics use “cell therapy” to treat ocular conditions. California (23), Florida (12), and Illinois (10) contain the most clinics. All 40 companies specified sources of cells, which included autologous adipose-derived stem cells (35; 67%), autologous bone marrow–derived stem cells (8; 15%), amniotic stem cells (2; 4%), peripheral blood–derived stem cells (2; 4%), umbilical cord blood stem cells (2; 4%), allogenic bone marrow–derived stem cells (1; 2%), placental stem cells (1; 2%), and xenocells (1; 2%). The most commonly marketed ocular conditions included macular degeneration (35), optic neuritis (18), retinitis pigmentosa (17), and diabetic retinopathy (16). The most common routes of administration were intravenous (22) and “unspecified” (12); however, other companies listed more ocular-specific routes such as intravitreal injections (2), retrobulbar injections (2), eye injections (2), retrofundal injection (1), sub-Tenon injection (1), intraocular injection with vitrectomy (1), and eye drops (1). The cost of advertised “cell therapy” ranged from $4000 to $10 500. Conclusions: “Cell therapy” for ocular conditions is readily available via direct-to-consumer marketing strategies across the United States. The “cells” are harvested from numerous sources and administered through different methods for multiple ocular conditions at these “cell therapy” clinics. Limited data for these treatments necessitates advocating caution to physicians and patients about treatments offered at commercial “cell therapy” clinics.
ASJC Scopus subject areas