BASSETERRE –– Minister of State with responsibility healthcare, Wendy Phipps has denied that a stem cell research project is being undertaken at a hospital in St Kitts and Nevis and that the country’s chief medical officer (CMO) was forced into retirement last week because he spoke out about it.
“I wish to state categorically that neither the Ministry of Health nor the JNF General Hospital is engaged in any stem cell project,” she said in a statement in which she dispelled the claim of former CMO Dr Patrick Martin that the stem cell research was being done at the Joseph N. France (JNF) General Hospital without approval.
Phipps said it was a regenerative medicine project being temporarily housed at JNF.
“Government has given approval to a research project involving the use of plasma-based infusion therapies, to a limited number of overseas patients. The project, as approved, will not extend to any residents of St. Kitts and Nevis. It is a Phase 2-staged Clinical Trial of a research initiative that has already received US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) level one approval,” she explained.
“The private sector partners of the project include the St Kitts Marriott (Royal Plastics Group); St Kitts Biomedical Research Foundation, in an advisory capacity; Canadian businessman, Mr Kevin Klein; and two other investors, including a Brazilian medical group.”
As for Dr Martin’s allegation that a non-resident medical doctor was performing the alleged stem cell research, despite not having a licence to practice in St. Kitts and Nevis, Phipps said the Brazilian expert who is attached to the project, Dr Silvia Lagrotta, does not and has never administered any therapies to any patients in St Kitts and Nevis.
“Her presence thus far has been strictly limited to observing the process as a representative of the investor group’s Brazilian partner,” the minister said.
“In anticipation that Dr Lagrotta will be professionally engaged during the life of this project, her medical credentials have been submitted in the normal course for approval to function within the Federation as a medical practitioner consistent with the laws and regulations of the Federation.”
Phipps said it was “extremely unfortunate that Dr Martin has sought to link his retirement to alleged stem cell research when he knows that there is no stem cell research currently occurring in the Federation.”
She said Dr Martin was aware of his pending retirement, having received correspondence from the Minister of Health Eugene Hamilton, instructing him to proceed on leave.
The retirement age in the civil service is 55 years, Phipps’ statement pointed out. Dr Martin turned 58 last month.