By Sy Mukherjee
February 19, 2019

Good afternoon, readers. I hope you enjoyed your long weekend.

I’d guess that at least a slice of our readers regularly watch, or at least have seen, HBO’s biting television satire of Silicon Valley (aptly titled Silicon Valley). I only bring this up because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday issued a warning that evokes memories of one of the show’s most ridiculous (and yet entirely-too-real) episodes, wherein an SV billionaire has a young “blood boy” who regularly supplies him with infusions to stay healthy.

The crux of the FDA’s message: No, you probably shouldn’t dole out thousands of dollars to infuse young people’s blood plasma into your veins in the hopes of staving off serious diseases like dementia, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s.

“Plasma is not FDA-recognized or approved to treat conditions such as normal aging or memory loss, or other diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease,” wrote FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in a statement, going on to note that such unproven treatments can be dangerous and cause a host of side effects.

“Moreover, reports we’re seeing indicate that the dosing of these infusions can involve administration of large volumes of plasma that can be associated with significant risks including infectious, allergic, respiratory and cardiovascular risks, among others,” he said.

This isn’t to say that certain forms of blood plasma treatment will never prove effective for certain diseases; there just isn’t any solid clinical evidence along those lines to date. And there certainly isn’t any proof that injecting “young blood” can serve as some kind of biomedical fountain of youth.

These plasma infusions’ high price tags—reports peg them at anywhere between $8,000 and $12,000—also raise a broader question about the psychology of public health: How is it that pricey, but questionable and unproven, medical technologies sometimes appear to draw more hype than existing, proven, and cheap ones like basic vaccinations?

In any case, the FDA’s warning already led Ambrosia, the main firm that markets such blood-based treatments, to state it will “cease patient treatments” on Tuesday.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


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