Liow says law on stem cells not yet needed
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 29 — The Health Ministry did not have plans to introduce a law on stem cells at the moment, said Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
He said the ministry’s four guidelines on stem cell research sufficiently served as standards to which practitioners and scientists involved in stem cell research and therapy should adhere and to ensure patients were out of harm’s way.
The guidelines would provide a framework for researchers, clinicians and companies involved in research, clinical trials and manufacture of stem cells, he noted.
“There is no Stem Cell Act in this country. But the guidelines alone are sufficient to provide the grounds and ethical environment to carry out their work,” Liow (picture) told reporters after launching the 1st National Stem Cell Congress here today.
The four guidelines are National Standards For Haemopoietic Stem Cell Therapy, National Standards For Cord Blood Banking and Transplantation, National Standards For Stem Cell Transplantation and Guidelines On Stem Cell Research and Therapy.
Liow said: “Before we came up with the guidelines, we formed a committee to discuss the details of the research. The committee also included Jakim and religious officials for their views.”
He said the use of cell-based therapies should be done strictly under clinical trials.
Prior to the clinical trials, there must be sufficient evidence to show safety, quality and efficacy.
Meanwhile, Liow said stem cell therapy in Malaysia was developing well in government, as well as university hospitals, noting that the number of patients receiving bone marrow and stem cell transplantation for leukaemia and solid tumours was on the rise.
He said a total of 213 haemopoietic stem cell transplants were performed and registered in the country, the majority of which centred on malignant disorders, namely leukaemia and lymphoma.
Currently, the minister disclosed, there were 11 haemopoietic transplant centres performing haemopoietic stem cell transplants in the country, including Ampang Puteri Specialist Hospital, Haematology Department (Ampang Hospital), Haemopoietic Stem Cell Transplant Unit (Universiti Sains Malaysia Hospital) and Paediatric BMT Unit, Institute of Paediatrics Kuala Lumpur Hospital.
In another development, Liow announced that the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) has agreed to accept 80 students annually, to undergo the Medical Subspeciality Training Programme.
He said RCPI would provide an average of two to five years training places for most of the sub-specialities being offered, commencing from the 2013 intake.
The areas offered include cardiology, palliative medicine, endocrinology, gastroenterology, neurology, infectious diseases and geriatric medicine. — Bernama