Do an internet search on platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy and you are sure to find enough conflicting opinions to make your head spin. On the one hand are doctors who believe there’s nothing to it; on the other hand are doctors who use it regularly to treat a variety of maladies. And then there are the pro athletes who swear by PRP for getting them back into competitive play. All of this leads to confusion among consumers.
If there is one thing innovative medical treatments do not need, it is confusion. All the back-and-forth with PRP therapy is helping neither patients nor the medical industry in any way. The best thing anybody could do for PRP and its cousin, stem cell therapy, would be to figure out where the common ground is so that we can begin to clear up some of the confusion.
As for the source of all confusion, there are three primary culprits: inconsistent study results, a lack of medical standards, and unscrupulous clinicians. All three are discussed in further detail below.
1. Inconsistent Study Results
A lack of reliable clinical data about the efficacy of PRP therapy is not due to a lack of studies. Rather, the problem is one of inconsistency. It is pretty common to have numerous studies looking at the exact same questions yet coming up with results so different that it’s impossible to draw any concrete conclusions.
For the record, the conflicting data does not indicate an inherent instability related to PRP therapy. It does not, by default indicate a lack of efficacy. Rather, inconsistent study results are due to inconsistent study standards. Researchers have not yet settled on the right way to go about testing the efficacy of PRP let alone how to interpret the data.
2. Lack of Medical Standards
The inconsistency in PRP research extends to the actual delivery of therapy to treat things like orthopedic injuries. In other words, an athlete suffering a sports injury could go to one doctor who would advise a series of three PRP injections followed by physical therapy, then follow up with a different doctor only to be told a single injection along with some anti-inflammatory medications is sufficient.
Until standards are developed to offer clinicians definitive guidelines for using PRP therapy, confusion over its efficacy will continue. It cannot be helped.
3. Unscrupulous Clinicians
Advanced Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI) is a medical training company out of Utah that teaches doctors how to use PRP therapy to treat osteoarthritis, orthopedic injuries, alopecia, and aesthetic issues. Doctors who complete Apex training go on to use the therapies responsibly and for their intended purposes.
Unfortunately, there are other clinicians who neither undergo proper training nor stick within the boundaries of what are considered acceptable treatments. These unscrupulous clinicians are pushing PRP therapy as a virtual cure-all for everything.
The result of such unscrupulous practices is an environment in which far too many people who should not be receiving PRP therapy are getting it. And when it doesn’t work, they are convinced that the treatments do not work for anything. Unfortunately, there are also some doctors who fall into the ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ trap even though they should know better.
There is a lot of confusion among consumers over the efficacy of PRP therapy. A lot of the confusion could be cleared up if clinicians and researchers would get on the same page and start looking for some common ground. Then we could start making some real progress in figuring out how to use this innovative therapy to improve the lives of patients.