Ferry firm ‘astonished’ by stem cell plan on ferries

THE management of Swansea-Cork Ferries has expressed “utter astonishment” that a Swiss-based biotechnology company was planning to offer unlicensed stem cell treatment aboard its ships.

Advanced Cell Therapeutics (ACT) is understood to have been planning to offer the multiple sclerosis (MS) treatment at sea because EU law surrounding the safety and transportation of body tissue, signed into Irish law last month, stopped such treatment at a Cork clinic.

Offering the unproven treatment aboard a ship in international waters could avoid sanction because it would not be governed by EU law.

Swansea-Cork Ferries confirmed yesterday that they received two recent inquiries from MS sufferers.

Just weeks earlier, the Irish Examiner revealed how the €18,500 treatment was being administered from Dr John Dunphy’s surgery in Carrigaline, Co Cork. The Irish Medicines Board is investigating this practice while Dr Dunphy’s role is being examined by the Irish Medical Council.

A Swansea-Cork Ferries spokesman said senior management was “astonished” that ACT was advertising the potential availability of the treatment on their ships. They contacted Dr Dunphy to express their anger.

“It is absolutely untrue that we are involved in this planned service. We are utterly astonished that this company should be advertising this service in an apparent attempt to circumvent EU legislation.

“Captains and crews have been informed that we are absolutely prohibiting the carrying out of any such treatment aboard our fleet. Our staff have been ordered to ensure that no such activity takes place. We have also informed ACT that we are prohibiting any planned treatment,” said the spokesman.

Booked patients, who had sought treatment at Dr Dunphy’s clinic, were told in a letter: “ACT is offering a convenient alternative, which involves an examination and preliminary consultation at the Cork clinic on the scheduled day of your treatment ... Administration of stem cell therapy will take place in international waters aboard the ferry.”

While it is believed that ACT’s plans to take the service to sea may have been shelved in recent days, Dr Dunphy was unavailable for comment yesterday, as was an ACT representative.

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