The Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and Health Sciences in Arizona has announced the opening of a new regenerative medicine center, the Neil Riordan Center for Regenerative Medicine, which will focus on non-opioid treatments of pain. They say it combines ancient and modern treatments to give patients effective pain management without opioids, and will also provide research and education opportunities. They thank Dr. Neil Riordan for “one of the largest and most impactful donations in our school’s history”, which made the center possible. Dr. Riordan said, “I am delighted to offer this gift to SCNM. I envision it as the first step in a paradigm shift for pain control”.
The staff is an “interdisciplinary team of naturopathic doctors, medical doctors, acupuncturists, chiropractors, and nutritionists [who] work together to identify a condition’s root cause and treat the person as a whole”. Their regenerative medicine “utilizes adult stem cells in bone marrow aspirate concentrate (BMAC), as well as Signature Cord™ and Signature Matrix™ perinatal tissue products from Signature Biologics, to supplement cushioning and wound covering. Those with chronic pain and those who experience a lessened overall quality of life due to physical discomfort may find that regenerative medicine accelerates healing and reduces pain. The list of services offered is a cornucopia of quackery and questionable treatments. Among other treatments, the center offers homeopathy and cupping!
I’m all for donating money, for rigorous medical research, and for finding non-opioid ways of treating pain; but I am not optimistic that this new clinic will contribute anything of value. There are a lot of red flags here; the two that particularly got my attention were “naturopathic medicine” and “Neil Riordan”.
Naturopathic medicine is a branch of alternative medicine based on vitalism and folk medicine rather than on science-based medicine. It employs all kinds of pseudoscientific practices, is not evidence-based, and has often been accused of quackery. I reviewed the major textbook of naturopathy; it is illuminating and fascinating to see what naturopaths are taught. The textbook claims homeopathy is effective medicine and it resuscitates the obsolete ancient Greek claim that our bodies are made up of four humors. It is rife with superstition, misinformation, logical fallacies, fake illnesses, egregious errors, and striking omissions. For instance, there is nothing about the use of insulin in Type 1 diabetes, no mention of sexually transmitted diseases, and no mention of arrhythmias – surely diagnoses every primary care practitioner needs to know about. And although NDs pride themselves on prevention, it covers rotavirus infections without mentioning that we now have a safe and effective vaccine to prevent it.
One of the lectures in my video series serves as a good introduction to naturopathy. And ex-naturopath and whistleblower Britt Hermes tells the inside story about naturopathy in her blog “Naturopathic Diaries“.
Naturopaths do offer a lot of good standard lifestyle advice like exercise and not smoking, but they mix it with total nonsense. What naturopaths do that is good is no different from what MDs do, and what they do that is different is not good.
This name jumped out at me. I’d not only heard of him before, but I’d written about him in my SkepDoc column in Skeptic magazine. The full text of my article is available online. I had been asked to view an episode of The Joe Rogan Show where he interviewed Riordan and Mel Gibson (David Gorski has also written about Riordan’s activities, including his appearance on The Joe Rogan Show). Both interviewees offered testimonials of amazing cures with Riordan’s special preparation of stem cells, but I wanted to know about the science, so I obtained and read Riordan’s book Stem Cell Therapy, A Rising Tide: How Stem Cells are Disrupting Medicine and Transforming Lives. I was disappointed to find that it was a litany of anecdotes. The treatments described were inconsistent, using a variety of methods. There were plentiful references, but they were mostly about other forms of stem cell treatments, animal studies, and speculation.
He has published about orthomolecular medicine and peripheral subjects, but he doesn’t actually have any controlled studies to support the specific kind of stem cell therapy he is providing (at up to $38,000 a pop!) All I found was a feasibility study of 20 multiple sclerosis patients with no control group. He thinks a dysfunction or lack of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) is the root cause of most diseases including cancer, which he says is a “last-ditch effort to heal a non-healing wound”!
What he is offering is not really stem cell treatments. He claims to have isolated signaling solutions that he calls Magic Juice.
“Dr.” Riordan is a PA and PhD but not an MD. He ran a stem cell clinic in Costa Rica until the government shut it down because his treatments were not supported by evidence. He moved his clinic to Panama, whose more permissive government has not interfered. Riordan is the founder and Chairman of Medistem Panama. He also founded Aidan Products, which sells products like Stem-Kine, advertised as “the only nutritional supplement that is clinically proven to increase the amount of circulating stem cells in the body for an extended period of time”.
He claims to have obtained a PhD in Health Science from the Medical University of the Americas, a Caribbean school. I could not find any mention of a PhD program on their website. He claims to have won an award for demonstrating stem cells in menstrual blood, but I found an article that credited two other researchers with that discovery a decade ago. He claims to have published over 60 articles in peer-reviewed journals, and to have been granted 11 patents and he is “listed on more than 25 patent families”, whatever that means.
Apparently he self-authored a Wikipedia entry that was deleted. Excerpt from the editors’ discussion that led to deletion: “The article was apparently written with a close conflict of interest and does little more than assert the expertise and importance of the subject who, near as I can tell, is in the business of selling Vitamin C as a cancer cure.”
Conclusion: Questionable funds questionable clinic
I wish I knew more. I’m guessing he accumulated the funds for his large donation by treating patients in Panama and charging them big bucks for a treatment that he has never properly tested. If he really has discovered a Magic Juice, it is unethical not to share his discovery with the world. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to use his profits to fund his own rigorously scientific placebo-controlled, double-blind trial? He appears to be thinking like a naturopath, not like a good scientist. Isn’t he misrepresenting himself to patients by calling himself “Dr”?
I hope he’s right. I hope his Magic Juice is a scientific breakthrough. I’m ready to follow the evidence wherever it leads, but so far there’s nothing to follow.