Scott Pelley on "monstrous" stem cell fraud

On "CBS This Morning" Scott Pelley discussed his report on "stem cell charlatans" - doctors who claim that their use of stem cells can cure a host of incurable, possibly terminal diseases.

"This is just a monstrous thing that we began investigating at '60 Minutes' a couple of years ago," Pelley said when asked how widespread the fraud has been. "If someone gets a diagnosis, a terminal diagnosis, what do they do? They go home, they go online, they look up their disease and what do they find? Hundreds of very sophisticated websites promising stem cell cures for their disease - every kind of cancer, Alzheimer's disease, ALS, all these terrible diseases that there are no cures for."

In an excerpt from last night's "60 Minutes" report, Pelley interviewed Dr. Dan Ecklund who claims he can treat dozens of diseases using stem cells. Ecklund, whose medical license was revoked in 2005, founded a company and a website that offers hope where science cannot.

You can view the full "60 Minutes" report by clicking on the video player below.

Stem Cell Fraud: A 60 Minutes investigation
Anatomy of a "60 Minutes" hidden-camera interview

"What's amazing about this for me is, why do they think they can get away with it, number one? And then secondly, what can be done about it?" asked Charlie Rose.

"Most of these places - Dr. Eklund's lab, for example - are offshore; he was operating out of Ecuador," said Pelley. "It's illegal to import stem cells into the United States under these circumstances. It's illegal to make claims about a therapy that there is no evidence to support. It's illegal to transplant these stem cells under these circumstances in the United States. So the FDA is really just beginning to wake up to this."

Two of the "stem cell charlatans" profiled previously on "60 Minutes" were arrested last week on fraud charges, after a grand jury found that they had made $1.5 million selling fraudulent stem cell therapies.

Rose suggested that the existence of fraud does not mean that pursuing medical cures using stem cells is not a worthy objective.

"Absolutely," said Pelley, "and billions of dollars are being spent around the world doing legitimate research into this area. One of the top scientists in the world on this told us that she absolutely believed that there would be stem cell cures for many diseases, but they're probably about 10 years away, she said. The kinds of claims that are made on the Internet today are just completely unfounded, at this point."

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.

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