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Friday, August 28, 2009

Stem Cell Treatments Boost Medical Tourism

As technology and standards of care in many countries improve, more and more Americans are seeking treatment outside the US.

Medical tourism is the term used to refer to the practice of seeking healthcare services by crossing international borders. While there continues to be an increase in inbound medical tourism in the US, a large number of Americans are traveling outside the US for medical procedures.

Medical tourism is popular because people like to travel to an exotic destination and save money on elective and alternative medical and dental treatments. But, some patients are seeking treatments that are not available in their own country due to national governmental regulations. For example, treatments using placenta stem cells have not been approved in the US, but they have been showing remarkable results for more than 25 years in other countries.

Umbilical cord blood and bone marrow stem cells have been used for treating several illnesses and conditions, but placenta stem cells harvested from the discarded placentas of healthy newborn babies have even more potential. Not only are they more plenteous and easier to safely extract for transplantation, the Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland says placenta stem cells can be used to treat more disorders and the recipient does not have to be perfectly matched to the donor.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) spent $938 million on stem cell research in 2008. The state-funded California Institute for Regenerative Medicine has approved approximately $693 million on research grants since its inception in 2005. Approximately 30,000 patients have received stem cell-based therapy outside the US within the past three years.

International Stem Cell Institute (ISCI) was launched in April 2008 as a result of 17 years of stem cell treatment experience. The company was founded and is managed by Rita Alexander, a businesswoman with a desire to bring stem cell treatment to those who are suffering with a condition that has not responded to traditional medicine.

The cost of stem cell therapy is generally about $40,000 in China, $30,000 in the Dominican Republic, and about $25,000 in India. The price for placental stem cell treatment at the ISCI clinic in Mexico is $9,950 (excluding travel expenses). ISCI specializes in helping people with financing medical procedures at the clinic by providing low-interest loans and a 12-month interest-free option. ISCI also assists with patient education, pre- and post-treatment support, and travel logistics regarding placenta stem cell treatment.

Rita Alexander says “The benefit for US and Canadian citizens is that they can travel to Texas, spend just a couple of hours across the border in Mexico and receive a very effective stem cell treatment at a fraction of the cost of other treatments half way around the world.”

Jeff Blank is an ISCI patient diagnosed with a condition known as ataxia, which is a genetic neurological disorder effecting motor skills and cognitive function similar to that of Parkinson’s disease. Jeff traveled to China twice for stem cell treatment at a cost of over $60,000. After minimal results from two China stem cell treatments, Jeff found ISCI and was elated when all of his symptoms, including slurred speech, balance, gait, and motor skill issues improved a few days following this stem cell treatment.

“ISCI’s patient volume has doubled over the last six months due to the positive responses of our patients,” says Rita Alexander. “Patients are discovering that lower cost treatment does not mean giving up quality of care and cutting edge treatment options such as stem cell treatment for a wide range of conditions are only available outside of the US. The impending healthcare plan may actually drive more US patients to consider treatment in other countries and we are rapidly preparing for this expected growth.”

Stem cell therapies are estimated to generate $8 billion in annual revenue in the U.S. by 2018. Hopefully, by then, placenta stem cell therapy will be part of standard medical treatment in the US, so that those who are unable to travel abroad may access this promise of restored health and life.

For more information about ISCI or to arrange a consultation or schedule an appointment, please visit http://www.iStemCelli.com or call 800-609-7795 toll free.

Rita Alexander
Executive Director
International Stem Cell Institute

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