In the past few weeks we’ve received numerous questions in the wake of media reports on Health Canada’s regulatory actions concerning certain experimental cell therapies. Some media reports on Health Canada’s movements were confusing, causing Health Canada to clarify its actions with a second release last week. Here, in this article, we’ll explain what happened, with a view to differentiating the advanced treatments that Medcan provides from the experimental therapies that were the subject of the government’s regulatory actions.
Back in May 2019, Health Canada put out a release that criticized some clinics for providing “unauthorized cell therapies, such as stem-cell therapy.” Medcan was not one of the clinics affected, nor does it provide stem-cell injections as therapies. However, at least one media report earlier in July grouped platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatments into the therapies being criticized by Health Canada. Medcan does provide PRP treatments.
The move prompted Health Canada last week to clarify that it did not mean to criticize PRP therapies in its regulatory actions. “Health Canada would like to clarify for patients and practitioners that Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) treatments, including Platelet Rich Fibrin treatments, are not the same as cell therapies and, as a result, are not subject to Health Canada’s Policy Position Paper on Autologous Cell Therapy Products,” the report clarified. In addition, Health Canada said in an email to CTV News, “The administration of PRP may be considered to be an established medical practice by provincial health care professional colleges in instances where autologous PRP is obtained by the centrifugation of whole blood which is then injected immediately into patients by licenced health care practitioners operating under their scope of practice.”
PRP and autologous stem-cell injections amount to two different therapies with profoundly different evidence bases. Medcan prides itself on its ability to be among the first in this country to provide advanced medical treatments, including the use of PRP, which has become popular over the last decade to treat the symptoms of various diseases because it contains high concentrations of the body’s own growth factors, which are thought to stimulate tissue repair and regeneration, promote healing and relieve pain.
To create platelet-rich plasma, a small amount of blood is drawn from the patient’s own body and placed into a test tube. The tube is then centrifuged to differentiate the various components, resulting in a layer of platelets concentrated in blood plasma. It is this layer that can then be injected into the patient’s own body. Because PRP is drawn from one’s own body, there is little probability of its use triggering allergic or other reactions—resulting in a uniquely safe and effective therapy.
PRP is used as a therapy in the Refine by Medcan dermatology clinic as well as in our orthopaedic clinic for numerous purposes, including:¸
At Refine by Medcan we provide PRP treatments based on a large body of published scientific evidence. For example, scientific evidence suggests that the high concentration of platelets in PRP supply growth factors which promote tissue regeneration. Clinical studies have shown that PRP is beneficial in wound healing, skin rejuvenation, hair loss, arthritis and tendon problems. “We stand behind the longstanding evidence that PRP is a proven, safe treatment for hair loss and skin rejuvenation,” said Dr. Julia Carroll, Medcan’s director of dermatology. “We will continue to perform these treatments and give our patients the excellent results you’ve grown to expect from our team of board-certified dermatologists.”
One important thing to note about platelet-rich plasma therapies, said Medcan’s Dr. Sebastian Rodriguez-Elizalde, an orthopaedic surgeon, is that in the case of osteoarthritis, PRP is meant to manage a condition, rather than cure it outright.
“Platelet-rich plasma as a therapy for knee pain has been well studied in the orthopaedic literature,” said Dr. Rodriguez. “Multiple studies have demonstrated its efficacy in reducing pain, swelling and dysfunction in diseased joints, with the effects lasting from weeks to several months. However, PRP will not cure the joint of arthritis permanently.”
“It’s safe, it works and it’s studied, and for me, that’s why we continue to use it,” Dr. Rodriguez said.
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