TAMPA, Florida – Four years after Tammy Rivero began her legal battle against the Pulmonary Institute, the 62-year-old has reason to win, albeit a small one.
“I was excited. I want to relax and do something for others,” she told us during a zoom interview from her home in North Carolina.
Rivero responded to an order from a Hillsborough County judge who had recently upheld her class action lawsuit against the Lung Institute, LLC in Tampa. The clinic offers stem cell therapy for incurable lung diseases and has previously applied online as the “innovative market leader for regenerative medicine”. The class action certificate now potentially opens the door to hundreds of former patients who also believe they have been misled about treatments they have received in the clinic.
A few years ago, Rivero contacted the clinic hoping to receive treatment for multiple lung diseases. Rivero, who was a smoker, was diagnosed with a number of lung diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), black lung, and emphysema. She traveled to Tampa for three days in 2014 to receive stem cell therapies worth $ 7,500.
“You said I could regenerate my lungs and breathe without oxygen,” she said.
After a few weeks, Rivero said that she still felt no relief.
“I started to get excited that someone would take my money as sick as I did,” said Rivero.
Ben Vinson represents Rivero and now hopes to represent hundreds of patients across the country who claim the clinic knowingly sold the dying and sick false hope through unproven stem cell therapies. The use of stem cells is limited and remains largely unregulated.
“It is one thing for people to try experimental treatment when they have no other option, but it is different when the people who offer that option know that it doesn’t work,” said Vinson.
Since 2018, investigative reporter Katie LaGrone has been telling the stories of family members who believe they have been taken away by the lung institute’s aggressive marketing tactics.
In 2018, a former patient said, “The day I had it seemed to be worse.”
A widow of a former patient also described how her husband’s condition worsened after her treatments at the Pulmonary Institute in Tampa.
These former patients and their widows accuse the pulmonary institute of using aggressive and misleading marketing tactics for stem cell treatments.
In court documents, the changing lung owner denies fraudulent and unfair practices, saying that all patients had signed informed consent prior to the procedure. In a previous statement, the clinic spokesman said the clinic had treated thousands of satisfied customers and planned to “vigorously” fight the allegations.
On Thursday, Tammy Rivero’s condition didn’t improve. She told us that she now has six liters of oxygen per minute.
“I live, but I can’t breathe,” she said.
After mortgaging her home to pay the $ 7,500 treatment, she wants her money back and the satisfaction of knowing that she has fought back.
“Stop stealing from people. You know that your procedures are not working and you are taking from people who are suffering, ”she said.