Military hospitals in China are offering unapproved immunotherapy and stem cell treatments, Reuters reports, promising miracle cures at steep fees.
The news agency said promising preclinical therapeutics were offered at the military-run hospitals under the noses of regulators with advertisements. An informal survey showed "roughly four-fifths offered some kind of immunotherapy on their websites," Reuters said.
"Some of them said they had used it to treat thousands of patients," according to the report.
In one case highlighted, 21-year-old patient Wei Zexi died after treatment at the Second Hospital of Beijing Armed Police Corps. The hospital did not respond to requests for comment by Reuters.
China's health ministry investigated the case and found "serious problems" that included the use of "unauthorised clinical technology," Reuters said.
The country's health ministry, however, told Reuters in statement that it still classified immunotherapy as high risk and that no therapies had yet been approved for treatment.
Military hospitals in China stand apart from the state-run hospital system and often provide top-notch care to military members and senior-ranking political leaders, possibly allowing them more freedom from oversight, Reuters said.
China's massive state-run hospital system is under a crushing daily load of patients that sometimes pay touts to get quicker appointments. As well, many doctors run assembly-line operations.
Specialist care in areas like cancer, the biggest killer in China, is in short supply, though key military hospitals do have better facilities and doctors in many cases.
According to Reuters, citing Jones Day law firm partner Yuan Liming, some of the care at the military hospitals comes from third parties operating clinics for certain therapies in violation of health ministry rules.
Reuters said Wei's case centered on such a third-party service, immunotherapy technology company Shanghai Claison, which did not respond to requests for comment.
- here's the story from Reuters
Touts thwart top-level reforms at China's public hospitals