NAPLES — Dr. Zannos Grekos says state health-care regulators made an error about the kind of procedure he has done in his Bonita Springs practice when they issued a restriction on his license last month.
The restriction from the Florida Department of Health prohibits him from doing any stem cell therapy, including anything with a patient’s bone marrow. But Grekos says drawing a patient’s own bone marrow and injecting back into the patient is allowed under the law.
“They are under the impression that there is some FDA approval process for doing these bone marrow treatments in the United States,” he said. “We do them all over the country every day.”
Grekos said the state was being overly cautious when it issued the license restriction after a 69-year-old breast cancer patient died last year shortly after he injected her with her own bone marrow. She came to him in hopes he could address neurological damage, loss of sensation in her limbs, from her earlier chemotherapy.
She was discharged from his Bonita Springs practice, fell at her home, and later was taken to NCH North Naples Hospital. Tests revealed she may have had a stroke and she eventually was taken off life support.
Grekos, a cardiologist by training, has been involved with adult stem cell therapy since 2006. The therapy is performed on patients who travel to the Dominican Republic. Stem cell therapy is not approved in the U.S.
“This was more of an unusual circumstance that really didn’t have anything to do with stem cells,” he said of events with the patient who died.
For several years, he has held educational seminars for the public in Southwest Florida about the treatment. About 75 people turned out for one Monday at North Collier Regional Library.
None of them asked about the license restriction; instead they peppered him with questions about medical conditions and if stem cell therapy would work for them. They also asked why stem cell therapy is not allowed in the U.S.
“It seems like an interesting new procedure and it could be the thing of the future,” said George Hodge, 81, who has had a double bypass. “It’s coming.”
Inga Baur, a winter visitor from Germany, said she attended several of the seminars because she interested in medical advances.
“I think we have this procedure already in Germany,” she said.
The state’s complaint said it investigated for two months what happened in Grekos’ practice but he said they never visited his practice, located at 9500 Bonita Beach Road. They did have the patient’s medical records.
“They were never in our office,” he said.
He has not decided how he will respond when the state pursues disciplinary action.
“We need to get all the information from the state, which we don’t have yet,” he said. “When we get that, we will evaluate it.”
Grekos said he has gotten a lot of calls of support from others in the medical community.