This article has a number of surprises and new insights.

A Tampa-based regenerative clinic accused of using aggressive and unfair marketing tactics to lure the diseased and desperate into spending thousands of dollars on unproven stem cell therapies laid off a “small number of non-medical” employees earlier this week, a company spokesperson confirmed.

While it’s unknown exactly how many employees the Lung Health Institute let go of earlier this week, a spokesperson on Wednesday denied the layoffs were the result of a pending lawsuit facing the company and recent media scrutiny questioning its practices. Instead, the spokesperson wrote in a statement the layoffs were the result of “a planned transition that aligns with our strategy of moving away from a direct-to-consumer business model and focusing on our goal of ultimately creating industry-leading therapies that are FDA-approved for the treatment of chronic lung disease.”

The Lung Health Institute, which is headquartered in Tampa but has locations in four other states, has been criticized by former clients for aggressively pitching stem cell therapies for incurable lung diseases that are not FDA approved or proven to work. In 2018, we spoke with former clients and widows of clients who described how they were pitched therapies for incurable lung diseases.

The Florida Investigative Team

Tampa Attorney Ben Vinson filed the lawsuit on behalf of two former patients and said he has more than 30 others, who are hoping for a class action lawsuit against the clinic.

In Vinson’s original complaint filed in 2017, he accused the Lung Institute of using aggressive and deceptive marketing tactics for “sham treatments” based on “sham science and deception,” according to the complaint.

“They were desperate when they came to this company. They were all dying slowly, suffocating from various lung illnesses,” Vinson said. “They were desperate financially, in most cases, to afford the procedure so a lot of them gave up their last dime in order to do so,” he said.

In court filings, the company denies it ever engaged in deceptive and unfair practices. In response to the lawsuit, a spokesperson sent us the following statement:

“The Lung Health Institute has treated many thousands of patients for chronic lung disease. The vast majority of those patients reported positive outcomes after treatment as supported by established and accepted quality of life measures. This is a meritless lawsuit by two plaintiffs. We deny the allegations and intend to vigorously defend against all of the claims in the complaint, as outlined in the September 6, 2019 motion for summary judgment, to which plaintiffs have yet to respond.”

Earlier in the day, its spokesperson sent us copies of six testimonials from former patients who said they felt positive results after undergoing treatments at the institute. Several indicated they sought “booster” treatments after benefits from their original treatments wore off.

According to court filings, before any treatments are done at the institute, patients must sign a patient consent form which warns them that the treatment may not have any impact on their conditions.

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