Making The Jump Overseas
It’s suggested that the market for stem cell therapy is in the billions and that there are approximately 700 to 1000 clinics worldwide. It’s incredibly difficult to know for sure because these clinics are not easily tracked. They are not regulated and they are truly just Internet businesses. If one clinic is closed by a government agency, then another one will just pop up and continue business as usual.
Preying on Desperation
Download our free Stem Cell 101 educational report today!
The Stars Are Doing It
Stem cell tourism is further heightened when you read about celebrities getting successful procedures done overseas. For example, Peyton Manning traveled to Europe in 2011 to have stem cell therapy for his neck injury. The procedure he had is actually banned in the United States, but he came back after the therapy and played what people would consider his best season ever. As a result, it was seen as safe and successful and people started to let their guards down.
Another example of celebrity stem cell tourism is Gordie Howe, who received a rare stem cell treatment for his strokes in 2014. His treatment involved bone marrow from a young adult and neural stem cells from fetal brain tissue, which is not FDA approved. As a result, Gordie got the treatment in Tijuana, Mexico and it had been labeled a success. Gordie was able to stand up and walk to the bathroom following the surgery. By day 5, he was able to do chores and go grocery shopping. In fact, he later went back for a second treatment. Overnight, these celebrities became spokespersons for stem cell therapy and many people no longer questioned the risks involved.
Clinical Trials and Stem Cell Tourism
To date, there are hundreds of stem cell therapy clinical trials going on in the United States. However, these are rare to find when one travels abroad for stem cell therapy. These clinics automatically claim their treatments are ‘safe, effective, and routine’, and therefore they don’t need any clinical trials. Unfortunately, the claims they make about their established treatments rarely match what is said in scientific literature.
Few Stem Cell Treatments Have Been Proven Safe
For those that may not know, clinical trials are research studies that investigate if a treatment is effective and safe for humans. There are laws and regulations that govern clinical trials, but the expectations vary from country to country. A good clinical trial has certain criteria has to be met, such as:
- Protections against risk to the participant
- Actual scientific evidence
- Thorough details about procedures, tests, and treatments
- Clear understanding of information to be gathered
- And more!
There are several stem cell clinical trials underway for various conditions and diseases so we can expand our knowledge of them. However, there are actually very few stem cell treatments that have been proven safe and effective. In fact, the most extensively used and well researched stem cell treatment today is hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (i.e. bone marrow transplantation). Therefore, if you come across a clinic advertising anything different, it’s more than likely a hoax.
The Cost of Stem Cell Treatment Abroad
It is difficult to pinpoint the true cost of receiving stem cell treatment abroad because it’s based on a number of factors. The cost is based on:
- Availability of treatment
- Quality of treatment
- Country regulations
A knee transplant in Mexico may only cost $2,000, but be $50,000+ in the United States. The average cost worldwide is around $10,000. These prices are much higher if you have to factor in lodging or bringing along a caregiver. In addition, non-FDA approved clinics usually do not accept insurance so these fees must be paid out-of-pocket.
On the other hand, some non-FDA approved clinics are very expensive and people are unsure of what’s driving up the cost. They’re not participating in clinical studies, they don’t follow-up after the treatment, and they’re not publishing anything for peer review. Most of their devices are not even compliant. Unfortunately, many people have to seek funding from their friends, family, and church to invest in a treatment that could have a much more costly outcome.
Join our Stem Cell Discussion & Information Facebook Group today!
In general, stem cell tourism is not a bad thing. There are other countries that have advanced research as well that we can benefit from. The problem is ill-intentioned people entering the market and hurting the legitimacy of the entire field. Keep in mind that there are individuals that come from other countries to seek treatment in America too. And, treatments aren’t always safe either. There are some illegitimate stem cell clinics throughout the United States preying on vulnerable individuals as well.
Be Cautious When Considering Treatment
If you or a loved one would like to move forward with stem cell therapy in the United States, then be sure to verify if the FDA has reviewed the treatment. You can even ask a clinical investigator for the FDA-issued Investigational New Drug Application number so you can review the communications on your own. An illegitimate clinic may try to sway you if you’re using your own stem cells, but you should remain adamant about reviewing the material.
Those participating in a clinical trial will have to sign a consent form and can identify the study’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). The IRB ensures that participants of the study have their rights and welfare protected. You also have the right to ask the research sponsor for the clinical investigators brochure. This information should tell you all the risks involved, as well as the study’s safety and effectiveness.
Treatment Out of the Country
If you’ve opted to seek treatment out of the country, please be sure to learn about the regulations that cover products in that country. Also, understand that the FDA does not have oversight of the treatment done in other countries. Unfortunately, some clinics offer treatments that haven’t gone through a regulatory review process. As a result, they don’t even know how safe their treatment really is.
The Ultimate Goal
Stem cell researchers are working hard to better understand diseases and learn how stem cell therapy could be of benefit. However, they still have a lot to learn. Their ultimate goal is to provide safe and effective treatment for the various diseases and conditions in the world. In the process, they do their best to minimize harm and maximize effectiveness. If a clinic doesn’t appear to share that characteristic, it’s probably best to look at other options.