Skin cream made from skin cells creates controversy Would you use this cream?
Carolina investigated a doctor-recommended skin cream after an Upstate
woman said it was made from a controversial ingredient.
Lona Lyda has been breast cancer free for more than 10 years. In between the chemotherapy and check-ups she's had, she's also had to deal with very dry skin.
At the advice of a dermatologist, she got a tube of a cream known as NeoCutis.
"They had recommended the NeoCutis for me," she said. "A lot of good selling points about the dry skin, and that was pretty much it. I bought it."
And she used all of it. That was back in 2008. Fast forward a few years, she was looking online one day and made a shocking discovery.
"They had used an aborted baby boy, a small piece of skin to start the stem cell line," Lyda said.
FOX Carolina asked, and the makers behind the cream gave us a study on how NeoCutis was made, and the ethics behind it. And it turns out Lyda's claims were mostly right.
The study revealed that, back in 2004, there was a married couple in Switzerland that became pregnant. The study went on to say that the couple's fetus was diagnosed with posterior encephalocele. In layman's terms - the study said the brain was deformed, the brain stem was underdeveloped and the retinas were not formed correctly.
Doctors said the fetus wouldn't survive, so the parents decided to terminate the pregnancy. But before doing so, the study said the parents sent some of the fetus' cells to a cell bank. And cloned proteins from those cells were used to make NeoCutis.
For Lyda, she said she simply wasn't informed of any of this. But she also said she didn't ask.
"I heard this wonderful sales pitch about all these wonderful things it would do for me," she aid. "I never heard one thing about 'Oh, it has fetal skin cells in it.'"
"Most physicians aren't going to know for sure how this was developed in its early stages," said Dr. Charles Kay, bioethicist at Wofford College. "It's important to note that fetal tissues, stem cells - these are not ingredients in these preparations. These are simply the origins of the cells which produce the proteins, and are in turn, the ingredients."
Kay said it simply comes down to disclosure on both the part of the doctor and the patient.
NeoCutis is quite blunt about the use of fetal skin cells on their website. Carolina Aesthetics in Greenville sells NeoCutis, and said there's an insert in every box.
On the tube Lyda showed to FOX Carolina, there was nothing on the tube explicitly saying where it came from.
But the letters "PSP" on the front of the tube did give an indication. According to NeoCutis, "PSP" means "processed skin cell proteins."
Kay said doctors need to keep their users' religious and moral beliefs in mind.
"You wouldn't sneak by some injection for someone who's a Jehovah's Witness," Kay said. "You need to inform them so they can decide whether they want this treatment or not."
Carolina Aesthetics didn't comment on Lyda's case, but in a statement said:
"NeoCutis products, developed initially for their ability to heal wounds without scarring, are very popular now since they clearly help diminish the signs of aging. We rarely receive complaints about NeoCutis products; the few we do get typically pertain to irritant factors. We consult with patients on suggested treatment and usually those conversations are directed toward the product efficacy and use guidelines. NeoCutis' background is featured in the package insert in every box. Patients should feel empowered to discuss with their physicians any questions they may have about recommended products."
Lyda is aware that others may have no problem with how NeoCutis has been made. She's not wanting it pulled off the shelves, but she does want others to know - and to ask. She said she learned that the hard way.
"To me, in my mind, it's part of a child. Definitely. It was an aborted baby boy. I know it was a small piece of skin but it's still his skin that was on my face," Lyda said.