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Saturday, September 19, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Post Falls-based stem cell purveyors face lawsuits by attorneys general in two states

UPDATED: Tue., Sept. 15, 2020

The front door of Stem Cell Centers of Idaho, at 1341 Northwood Center Court in Coeur d’Alene, is shown in 2019. The owners, Travis and Emily Autor, have been sued by the attorneys general of Nebraska and Iowa, who allege they bilked millions of dollars from patients based on claims of false cures.  (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)
The front door of Stem Cell Centers of Idaho, at 1341 Northwood Center Court in Coeur d’Alene, is shown in 2019. The owners, Travis and Emily Autor, have been sued by the attorneys general of Nebraska and Iowa, who allege they bilked millions of dollars from patients based on claims of false cures. (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)
By Thomas Clouse The Spokesman-Review

A company based in Post Falls, which operates clinics across the country that claim they can reverse aging or cure everything from lung ailments to joint pain through stem cell therapy, has been sued by the attorneys general of Iowa and Nebraska for what they say are false claims about the benefits of the injections.

The civil lawsuits have been filed against owners Travis and Emily Autor, who until recently lived in Liberty Lake, and company executive Mike Pavey, of Spokane. The civil suits allege Stem Cell Centers, which also does business as NW Regenerative Medicine, is essentially defrauding patients by failing to provide the promised cures.

“This lawsuit … seeks a permanent injunction against Defendants to stop them from swindling additional Iowa victims; an order directing them to reimburse money victims spent on bunk treatments and imposing civil penalties for their false, misleading, and deceptive conduct and unfair practices; and other relief,” the suit in Iowa states.

Lynn Hicks, spokesman for Iowa Attorney General Thomas Miller, said the Autors have not yet responded to the suit but are expected to by the end of the month.

The Autors are being represented in the case by Des Moines attorney Mark Weinhardt, who did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment.

According to records filed in the state of Idaho, Stem Cell Centers of Idaho has a current business license for a clinic in Coeur d’Alene. Secretary of State documents also show an active business license for NW Regenerative Medicine and Anti-Aging Institute in Post Falls.

Some of the company documents also list where the Autor’s lived in Liberty Lake and a new address in Las Vegas. Travis Autor did not immediately respond to a request Tuesday for an interview. Mike Pavey, listed as a company executive, said he was out of town but would be available for comment Friday.

According to the suit filed in Nebraska, the Autors have similar clinics in Alaska, Vermont, Idaho, Nebraska, Virginia, Arizona, Florida and Montana. Most of those businesses list either a Post Falls or Liberty Lake address as company headquarters.

“Defendants’ actions constitute deceptive trade practices,” the suit filed in Nebraska states in part. “Each and every advertisement, failure to disclose information, misrepresentation, and representation without adequate substantiation constitutes a separate and independent violation of the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act.”

According to an April 2019 interview with The Spokesman-Review, Travis Autor acknowledged that he runs the business and that his wife, Emily, only hires staff in her role as company president.

Travis Autor previously was known as Travis Broughton before he agreed in 2009 to allow the state of Washington to suspend his chiropractic credentials for 10 years to settle allegations of double-billing, having sex with a patient and smoking marijuana during lunch breaks at his business in Spokane Valley.

According to the agreement he signed, Broughton could have applied for reinstatement by 2016 as long as he underwent sex-offender treatment evaluation, paid a $10,000 fine, passed two years of random drug and alcohol tests, and attended support-group meetings.

Broughton later married Emily Autor and took her last name. In 2014, they set up a chiropractic business in Coeur d’Alene.

Emily Autor said during the 2019 interview the couple took a loss that first year. Then in 2015, they changed their business name to Stem Cell Centers of Idaho after attending a seminar on stem cell therapy in Park City, Utah.

“Why not go to stem cells and become the best in the country at it? We know the product works,” Travis Autor said in 2019. “My goal is to teach people to do it right.”

In 2018, the couple claimed they grossed $15 million from their clinics near Spokane and around the country. They said they only took 7%, or more than $1 million, as salaries for themselves.

“When we started this from day one, we realized this was the wild, wild west of medicine,” Autor said. “It’s so brand new.”

Despite their advertised cures, insurance companies refuse to cover the steep cost of the treatments, which have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The lawsuits filed in Iowa and Nebraska note that the FDA issued a warning in September 2019 that said: “Stem cells have been called everything from cure-alls to miracle treatments” and implored consumers to not “believe the hype. Some unscrupulous providers offer stem cell products that are both unapproved and unproven.”

The suit in Iowa quoted former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who said: “Some actors are leveraging the widespread belief in the eventual promise of [stem cell] products, flouting the statutes and [FDA] regulations, and deceiving patients by illegally … selling purported therapies, and falsely promoting their benefits.”

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