Doctor in call to outlaw MS 'miracle cure' injections being given at sea.
A leading doctor has called for an urgent legal review of the rules governing international waters after a company offered to provide unlicensed stem cell jabs on board a Welsh ferry. Dr Dai Lloyd, a Swansea GP and AM for South Wales West, said he feared other private companies could seek to circumvent strict rules governing the use of medicines by offering them on makeshift clinics in the middle of the ocean.
His comments come after it emerged a Swiss-based firm had told its clients it would provide injections of stem cells - a new but unproven treatment for Multiple Sclerosis - on the Swansea-Cork ferry after a doctor in Ireland was forced to stop offering such treatments.
The controversial treatment, which many believe could be a miracle cure for MS, is illegal in the UK and has been suspended in Ireland, following an investigation by the Irish Medicines Board.
Swansea Cork Ferries, which operates the overnight crossing, said yesterday it would not allow any medical procedures to be carried out on board its ships under any circumstances.
It is understood the plan by Advanced Cell Therapeutics (ACT) to use the sanctity of international waters to administer the injections, has now been abandoned.
But Dr Lloyd, a Plaid Cymru AM, said, 'This therapy is illegal in the UK and Ireland so it is vitally important that we know what happens in international waters, beyond the jurisdiction of the UK and Ireland.
'It would appear this private pharmaceutical enterprise is riding roughshod over how we licence and make treatments available.
'We know there is a lot of concern about MS but this treatment is being pushed as a miracle cure without the recognised evidence base to back it up.
'If that evidence base was available then presumedly it would be legal in the UK and Ireland and the company would not have to resort to such desperate measures. We need a review of the use of stem cells in MS and a legal review of what can be done in international waters as a matter of urgency.'
The controversial stem cell treatment, which comes from umbilical cord blood, costs pounds 12,000 a time and is claimed to repair the spinal damage caused by MS. But many experts are sceptical about the claims, which they say have not been backed up by any trials in the UK.
Dr Richard Lewis, Welsh secretary of the British Medical Association, said, 'The BMA cautions both doctors and patients about participating in the provision of care in conditions that are not appropriate for serious medical treatment.
'Innovative procedures in particular must not only be subject to close scrutiny and regulation but should only attempted after appropriate trials and in clinical settings which minimise all risks for patients.'
A spokesman for Swansea Cork Ferries last night said, 'Swansea Cork Ferries Ltd was astonished to learn that a company was proposing to offer stem cell treatment on board its ship, mv Superferry, while the ship was in international waters.
'The promotion of the treatment which is prohibited under EU law was done without any reference to Swansea Cork Ferries.
'On learning of the proposal, Swansea Cork Ferries contacted the promoters of the treatment and categorically informed them that such treatment was absolutely prohibited on board the vessel.
'The captain and crew captain of mv Superferry have been informed of the company's position and have been instructed to prevent the treatments from taking place should attempts be made to undertake them.
'It is wholly inappropriate that non-emergency medical treatments take place on board passenger ferries and we are appalled that our company was connected in any way with this treatment offer.': How floating clinics avoid the laws of the land:The sanctity of international waters has been used to offer patients numerous health services, which are banned, or restricted on land.A Dutch abortion ship has attempted to visit various European Catholic countries, including Ireland, to hand out pills to stop early unwanted pregnancies. Such a ploy would have avoided breaking national laws which prohibit abortions, except in the most exceptional circumstances. Last year a Danish entrepreneur was reported to be studying the possibility of anchoring 'fertility ships' in international waters.
Ole Schou, the founder of Cryos, the biggest sperm bank in Europe, wanted to supply anonymous sperm to Britons unable to have IVF or artificial insemination because there are not enough sperm donors in the UK. And, in 2001, controversial Italian fertility doctor Professor Severino Antinori raised the prospect of using a ship anchored in international waters as a clinic in which to impregnate women with cloned embryos in the race to create the first human clone.