Americans are herding to Costa Rica for stem cell treatments
The stories are starting to come in the man with the heart attack, now with a stem cell transplant, his glands can now generate insulin. The Florida parents of 7-year-old, who has autism, are taking him to Costa Rica at the end of this month for adult stem cell treatments.
Success stories have grabbed international media attention, with cable and TV networks jumping on the bandwagon by running stories like Paralyzed valley woman holds hope in Costa Rica treatment and Glenburn boy returns from Costa Rica after having adult stem cell therapy.
Adding to the hype of stem cell treatment, back in March, 2009 US President Barack Obama issued an executive order that lifted Bush-era restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research, but much of the treatment is still a long way off, experts say. With all this media attention, and America still in the Black Ages, the list of Americans seeking stem cell treatment in Costa Rica has tripled in the last year.
But the media and presidential endorsement of treatments (well at lease to a point) has made doctors in the U.S. nervous for the obvious reasons.
Its common knowledge that overall Costa Ricas medical tourism and the use of their wellness centers has doubled and tripled. Now the number of foreigners seeking and undergoing stem cell treatment in Costa Rica for ailments from bone fractures to multiple sclerosis has doubled. Costa Rican doctors say they are providing these medical tourists with groundbreaking treatments.
But I would not jump on the next plane to Costa Rica, stem cell scientists in the U.S. accuse Costa Rica of offering false hope by pushing techniques that have not been scientifically proven.
But it has not stopped Costa Rican legislators because they are putting the finishing touches on a law to promote and regulate adult stem cell research and treatment across a spectrum of diseases. Obviously, this could fuel further debate over techniques that U.S. doctors say have only produced anecdotal success but it certainly has not stop the flow of stem cell medical tourism.
Americans already make up close to 90 percent of the stem cell patients at CIMA Hospital. Dr. Fabio Solano who directs the stem cell institute at San Joses CIMA Hospital, one of the countrys leading private hospitals says his team has treated as many as 400 patients with procedures that involve stem cells.
However in Costa Rica, Catholicism is the state religion, working with human embryos is out of the question. So there is contentious debate around stem cells by prohibiting work with human embryos and instead promoting research on whats known as adult stem cells derived from tissue including body fat and umbilical blood or tissue.
Like most medical tourism in Costa Rica it is not really regulated by any Medical Institution or FDA, or are doctors subject to outrageous malpractice premiums, the cost for medical treatments, substance abuse, plastic surgery or dental work can be as much as 70% less.
In the case of stem cells treatments for MS in the U.S offers from university labs in guinea pig treatments range into the $100,000 to $150,000 where in Costa Rica the same treatment can be as low as $10,000.
A December 2008 study by the journal Cell Stem Cell found that international stem cell treatment hovers around an average of $20,000.
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