Friday, December 15, 2006
Exclusive by Natalie Walker
A CONTROVERSIAL clinic which offered hopes of a miracle cure for multiple sclerosis has been shut down.
The PMC Clinic in Holland was closed after allegations were made that stem cells used in its treatments were not intended for human use.
Scots who had been pinning their hopes on the clinic have been left devastated.
MS sufferer Tom Forrester had been saving to pay for treatment at PMC.
He tried to kill himself when he found out it had closed.
Tom, 54, of Kirkcaldy, Fife, said: "I had had enough.
"I went to bed on a Saturday night and took 70 painkillers."
Tom was found by carers the following day and spent 10 days in hospital recovering.
The clinic is run by Advanced Cell Therapeutics (ACT).
The Dutch government closed the clinic after ACT were accused of buying stem cells intended for research and using them to treat people instead. It has also been claimed that some of the cells used came from animals.
Many MS patients paid thousands of pounds for stem cell treatment at the clinic after claims that their symptoms could dramatically improve or even disappear.
Such treatment is banned in Britain because doctors are not convinced about how safe or effective it is.
MS sufferer Amanda Bryson, 20, of Inverness, handed over £12,000 to the clinic in November last year.
After the treatment, she was able to walk again for the first time in a year.
But within months, her symptoms had returned and she was immobilised.
Despite Amanda's experience, many MS sufferers were counting on the clinic as their only hope of living a normal life.
Margaret Byrne had been on the clinic's waiting list for treatment. She has been wheelchair-bound since 2003. Margaret, 51, of Buckhaven, Fife, said: "I thought I would be walking at Christmas. Now I have nothing to look forward to. I'm devastated."
Between them, Margaret and Tom had raised £14,000 for treatment.
Margaret said: "When the money came in, I thought, great, I'm getting another chance at life.
"We were signing our lives over to the clinic, believing heir treatment was legitimate."
The Multiple Sclerosis Trust said there are no other clinics in Europe offering stem cell treatment.
Chief executive Chris Jones said: "We are excited by legitimate research into stem cell treatment. But there's an awful lot of work needed before we can talk about delivering stem cell treatment in a safe, licensed environment."
Storeman Phil Cuthbertson was due to have treatment at the clinic this month after Daily Record readers donated cash.
He has Lebers, a rare genetic condition which has left him blind.
He hoped stem cell therapy would restore his eyesight.
Now he has had to start the process again at another clinic in Holland and faces a three-month wait for treatment.
Phil, 24, of Paisley, said: "I'd been so looking forward to seeing my family opening presents at Christmas."
Phil hopes to have his sight back in time to be best man to his dad Ian, 53, in 10 weeks.
His own wedding is in August, when he will tie the knot with Yvette Bruce, 23.
Phil said: "I'm looking forward to enjoying two big weddings when, hopefully, I'll be able to see."