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Ministry awaiting police report into long-covid clinic

Υπουργός Υγείας – Αιμοδοσία // health m
Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela

The health ministry said on Monday that updates are expected from the police investigations into the Larnaca-based clinic suspected of carrying out illegal treatments using embryonic stem cells before any actions are taken.

Following the discovery of human cells at the premises, further investigation will determine whether it was carrying out prohibited treatments, Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela told the media.

“Before any action is taken, we need to see if it is clear that they were doing some illegal treatments,” he said, explaining that the ministry is expecting updates from the police, who are handling the case.

Police investigations into the clinic in the outskirts of Larnaca started early July, after they received a complaint by a patient who came from abroad and paid large sums of money for a long-covid treatment at the facility.

Then, an equipment used for apheresis was found to be advertised to treat long-covid symptoms against the suggestions of its manufacturers.

Apheresis is a process where all the blood is removed, its components separated and then re-transfused into the body. It may be used to treat blood cancers and a range of other blood disorders.

It was later found that the clinic was importing human cells from Ukraine, claiming the product was used for “research purposes”.

Any treatment with embryonic stem cells is illegal in the European Union.

“The case is being handled by the police. I am waiting to hear from the police and then I will position myself accordingly. Without knowing the police report whether these treatments were illegal or not, we cannot take any action,” Hadjipantela said.

He added that no other similar complaints were made.

The case appears to be “very serious”, health ministry official Dr Carolina Stylianou told radio Trito on Monday, explaining that any use of embryonic cells for research must be authorised.

But she said the specific clinic was importing the human cells to the island under the pretence that they were blood.

Regarding the apheresis machine, the health official said a separate investigation is underway since those treatments concern different legislation.

She added that a licensed doctor was at the clinic on a permanent basis.

Authorities, who raided the health facility on Thursday morning, have so far received the files of eleven patients.

The clinic hit the headlines in the UK this month, after a joint investigation between ITV News and the British Medical Journal (BMJ) revealed hundreds of patients travel to the island as well as in Germany and Sweden to receive expensive treatments for long covid. The investigation cited experts saying the treatments have showed “limited to no evidence of effectiveness”.

However, several netizens criticised the report, highlighting patients’ suffering and the lack of research and traditional treatments for post covid symptoms.

“Very easy to judge when you don’t have Long Covid” a Twitter user commented under the article, while another posted a photo allegedly showing the blood clots pulled during the H.E.L.P apheresis treatment in Cyprus.

A man who claimed he was an Apheresis patient interviewed as part of the joint investigation said he was “disappointed by the article’s biased negativity”.

According to the joint BMJ and ITV, the Cyprus-based centre has treated around 120 people with long Covid symptoms with some saying they did not see any improvement.

The Cyprus Mail has contacted the clinic for comment but did not receive any response.

 

 

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