A Missouri lawmaker has been accused of trying to sell fake stem cells as a COVID-19 treatment

patricia derges
  • Missouri state Rep. Tricia Derges has been indicted on 20 felony counts.

  • Among the accusations is that she tried to get clients to buy fake stem cells to treat COVID-19.

  • Derges, a Republican, was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 2020.

  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

A Missouri state representative has been charged on 20 felony counts related to her health clinic business and accused of trying to get clients to buy a fake stem-cell treatment for COVID-19.

Rep. Tricia Derges, a 63-year-old Republican, was elected in November to represent Missouri District 140, which compromises Christian County, just south of Springfield.

In a press release announcing the charges on Monday, the US Attorney's Office for the Western District of Missouri said that an investigation into Derges was started in April 2020, when she appeared on a Springfield television station and made "false and misleading statements" about "her potential use of stem cells to treat COVID-19."

In the course of the investigation, authorities discovered that Derges had been selling a stem-cell treatment that didn't actually contain any stem cells, according to the indictment, which was viewed by Insider.

lynn morris tricia derges

According to the indictment, around November 2019, Derges' Ozark Valley Medical clinics became a distributor for the University of Utah's amniotic fluid products which, according to the university's website, can "help promote healing and prevent scarring and infection" for wounds, burns, and various surgeries.

However, Derges sold the amniotic fluid as a stem-cell treatment, despite the university's director of cell therapy and regenerative medicine telling her explicitly in an August 2019 email that the fluid did not contain stem cells.

According to the indictment, Derges made nearly $200,000 selling this fake stem-cell treatment for patients complaining of issues like tissue damage, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Lyme disease, erectile dysfunction, and urinary incontinence.

Read more: What's coming next for COVID-19 vaccines? Here's the latest on 11 leading programs.

She also posted on Facebook in April about its possible uses for COVID-19, the indictment said.

"This amazing treatment stands to provide a potential cure for COVID-19 patients that is safe and natural," Derges wrote.

The indictment said that Derges broke the law by prescribing controlled-substance medications to patients she hadn't even met.

This is because she was the only person licensed by the Drug Enforcement Agency at her three clinics to prescribe medications, so the other workers at the clinic would often come to her with recommendations about what kind of prescriptions their patients needed, and she would write them, the indictment said.

Though she has prescribing power, Derges isn't technically a doctor. The indictment explained that she is licensed as an assistant physician, a license that medical school graduates can get in Missouri that allows them to practice in some capacity without having completed a residency.

The indictment stated that Derges received her medical degree from the for-profit Caribbean Medical University of Curacao in May 2014, and was not accepted into a post-graduate residency program. That same year, she started her clinic business.

Derges pleaded not guilty at her first court appearance on Monday, and was released without bond, according to The Springfield News-Leader.

Derges did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Read the full indictment against Derges below»

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