Google bans ads for 'unproven' medical therapies

Google announced a new Google Ads Policy that targets unproven or experimental medical techniques.

This new policy will prohibit the advertisement of treatments now under research including most stem cell therapy, cellular (non-stem) therapy, and gene therapy.

"These treatments can lead to risky health outcomes and we feel they have no place on our platforms", Google said in a blog post cited by the newspaper.

The online giant said it made the decision due to "a rise in bad actors attempting to take advantage of individuals by offering untested, deceptive treatments".

Google's reversal, the Post reports, comes as "stem cell clinics have grown into a sprawling direct-to-consumer industry".

In June, a federal judge ruled that the US Food and Drug Administration could regulate a stem-cell treatment that has become popular within this industry - a victory in a lawsuit against a Florida company, US Stem Cell, which has reportedly blinded at least four patients after injecting its "treatment" into their eyes.

Still, Google has a long way to go to curb its spread of misleading medical advice.

Though the new policy prohibits most stem cell and gene therapies, it apples to all other untested treatments like ephedra, herbal and dietary supplements with active pharmaceutical or unsafe ingredients and some medicines used for weight control. Ittleman said some clinics had already been banned by Google starting two years ago.

Adrienne Biddings, Policy Adviser at Google, clarifies that Google will continue to allow advertising for research happening in this space for clinical trials and the ability for clinicians to promote their research findings to the public.

The ban will also include ads for treatments that may have scientific findings and preliminary clinical experience but still lack sufficient formal clinical testing to warrant widespread clinical use, which include stem cell therapies and gene therapies. "We know the digital ads ecosystem can only flourish if it's a place that is safe and trustworthy for users".

To formulate the new approach, a spokeswoman said, the company's policy team has reviewed the literature on the field and worked with various stem-cell experts.

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