Hungary, Ukraine: Illegal Stem Cell Therapy

Beginning from Jan. 1, 2009, stem cell therapy in Hungary is regulated in accordance with an international regulation that makes extremely strict conditions concerning the use of stem cells in therapeutic treatment. The medical website (HUN) writes that the competence of stem cells and the methods of their use must be controlled via professionally established animal tests. Then, these can be examined on human body with adequate permissions, and only following the rules of clinical tests.

Last week, four people were arrested on suspicion of giving illegal stem cell treatments. According to police reports, the treatments were carried out not just in Budapest and Kaposvár, but in hotel rooms and private homes around the country. Hungarian Spectrum reports:

[…] The Hungarian police arrested four people: “B. Julliy” who turned out to be Yuliy Baltaytis, a Ukrainian-born U.S. citizen; a Ukrainian woman, Natalia K., who apparently supplied the embryonic stem cells from Kharkov and Kiev; and two unnamed Hungarians, one of whom was charged with assisting the doctors “in the transportation of the cooling equipment, the handling of shipments from Ukraine, and the transportation of the patients to and fro.” The police claimed that the “therapists” demanded 5 million Hungarian forints ($25,000) for a single treatment. […]

The Budapest Times has more on the case:

[…] The suspects have been identified as Ukrainian-American medical professor Yuliy Baltaytis, plastic surgeon István Seffer, and a Ukrainian biologist known as Natalia K. A company called Institute for Regenerative Medicine (IRM), based in Kaposvár, was responsible for the treatments and CEO of the company Sándor Szabó is the fourth detainee, according to MTI. IRM rented space from Seffer & Renner clinic, said Tibor Seffer, managing director of the clinic and brother of István Seffer. He added that the IRM laboratory was separate and the Seffer clinic had nothing to do with stem cell research. […]

Hungarian Spectrum adds:

[…] The CEO of the company was Sándor Szabó and on the board we find Imre Pákh, István Seffer, the plastic surgeon from Kaposvár, and Ádám Fásy, a “media star” who apparently became rich as a result of starting beauty pageants in Hungary. Otherwise, Fásy has a rather primitive program on ATV called “Fásy mulató.” “Fásy Revelry.” […]

A year ago, a 31-year-old mother who was looking for treatment for her son's Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, wrote a post (HUN) about Dr. István Seffer, one of the Hungarian doctors who were arrested, because she intended to resort to the treatment:

I've already mentioned in a link that Dr. István Seffer would deal with stem cells at the private plastic surgery clinic in Kaposvár. They still don't have the ethical permissions but doctor Picskur practicing in Kiev is coming here to do implants. Of course on own responsibility (patients must sign a statement). From the three problematic criteria, two they can fulfill with benevolence, since correct hygienic conditions are given, and the stem cells aren't from Kiev but produced in Hungary, according to the statement of the doctor, they are totally controlled (concerning infections and genetic diseases). The third thing is the danger of cancer. I don't know anything about this at present, but considering the state of science today – I suppose – they don't know either…

The treatments were based on stem cells retrieved from aborted foetuses. Részeg Szamár (“Drunken Donkey”) wrote indignant posts about the story (HUN):

[…] As Neveletlen and several other media outlets wrote, stem cells were obtained from necrosed, or aborted foetuses. One thing is sure: not from dead foetuses, since no organs can be transplanted from the dead. But it sounds another way that Pisti [István Seffer] and his friends didn't pluck out by violence from mothers’ uterus, but plop they caught foetuses just scraped out, or just leaving the uterus, but still alive, and they obtained some millions from them before throwing them out to trash. However, ‘on behalf of humanity’, and on behalf of Pisti's pocket, the ‘unneeded’ foetuses were used, and each one had a biological mother. So by this time these mothers had to sign legal statements that they permitted it all. If Pisti can't present these, that's a big pitfall. If they can present, the image would be prettier, but only a little, because the stem cells didn't pass the obligatory examinations, so the lucky ones got whatever kind of a terrible genetic disease for 5 million, instead of eternal life, as a bonus, I suppose… Not to mention a small thing, that all this is prohibited in the [EU].

According to the Hungarian news agency MTI, Péter Zamecsnik, the defense lawyer of István Seffer, announced that the doctor was released Thursday from detention to house arrest.

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