At the end of 2014 the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) and Swissmedic, in partnership with the cantons, initiated an action plan to combat non-authorised fresh cell therapies. The outcome at the end of the campaign: Swissmedic issued rulings against manufacturers and suppliers of non-authorised animal tissue preparations in four cases. Three of these cases are still pending with the Federal Administrative Court. Objections were lodged against 14 websites because of misleading claims.
So-called fresh cell therapies involve injecting cells from young calves or lambs – usually living cells – into patients. These cells are generally injected into the buttocks and are advertised as having anti-ageing properties or being capable of strengthening the immune system. As yet, there has no scientific proof whatsoever to back up these claims.
Questions about "fresh cell tourism" were first raised via the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) in mid-June 2011. The Chinese noticed an increasing number of visa applications for medical treatment in Switzerland. In many cases, however, the purpose of these stays in Swiss clinics was not completely clear. The term "fresh cell therapy" was freely used to cover widely differing types of treatment, preparation and procedure. Not infrequent mention was made of "sheep placenta injections" for rejuvenation purposes. However, neither the FOPH nor Swissmedic had ever authorised such preparations or treatments.
The campaign by the FOPH and Swissmedic against illegal treatments with fresh cells and non-authorised fresh cell preparations has now ended and is making the transition into ongoing monitoring of such treatment offerings by the federal government and the cantons. Cantonal-level monitoring of the lawful use of medicinal products by healthcare professionals will play an important role.