The key question for stakeholders in regenerative medicine

Carly Behm -  

Collective decision-making will be an important factor when it comes to the future of regenerative medicine in orthopedics, said Brian Larkin, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and chief medical officer of Denver-based Orthopedic Centers of Colorado.

Dr. Larkin shared his long-term outlook on regenerative medicine with Becker's in a May 19 email.

Editor's note: This response was lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: Where is regenerative medicine headed in the next decade?

Dr. Brian Larkin: The allure of what regenerative medicine may be able to do over the coming years is enticing, particularly to patients. That being said, the support for many of these claims is not well supported in the scientific literature currently. There is a natural bias that exists with many patients that regenerative medicine will be able to save them from more invasive surgical solutions for musculoskeletal care. As such, the critical question that needs to be addressed going forward is whether the purported benefits of regenerative medicine can stand up to rigorous scientific examination and can come close to the average success that is seen with many surgical procedures.

One of the reasons why the scientific literature is sparse with regards to regenerative medicine is due to the current cost structure. The financial benefits in regenerative medicine are substantial for the provider and the impetus to consider rigorous research on whether these treatments are beneficial is minimal. Conventional medical insurance almost never covers these treatments. As such, if the patient is willing to pay out of pocket for a treatment, then the drive to assess the benefit from a scientific approach is minimal. While there have been some areas of success in treating musculoskeletal conditions with regenerative medicine, even the instances that show success have not been offered in conventional medical insurance plans. Patients are then left to make their own decisions. While this is not always a bad thing, the breadth of information available is likely not sufficient and some of these decisions can be poorly informed.

The biggest question facing the key stakeholders over the next decade is whether we can make collective decisions about the benefit, or lack thereof, with regenerative medicine. There likely is an opportunity for regenerative medicine in the armamentarium of musculoskeletal care, but these treatments should be cost effective, clinically beneficial and stand up to scientific assessment. How the medical community navigates this information will be crucial to where regenerative medicine evolves.

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