As a conference organizer, I’ve been in touch with various scientists and regulators in Mexico who are aware of the advancements made in stem cell therapies and their potential to cure fatal/chronic diseases. Medical tourism in Mexico has been a recurrent topic in these conversations since industry experts feel that this practice is giving the stem cell field a bad reputation because it offers treatments whose effectiveness has not been clinically proven.
A few days ago, I came across an online ad for a medical tourism clinic in the northern part of Mexico that offered alternative stem cell therapies for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and blindness amongst others. Curious to see what I would find, I followed the link to the website and noticed the page stressed “affordability” and “availability” of treatments as compared to the United States and Canada.
But what made these clinics operate in Mexico? How come they don’t stay in the United States and Canada where their profits might be higher? Well, many of these stem cell therapy clinics did not get FDA authorization to operate because their treatments simply did not meet the criteria for safety or efficacy. In fact, the FDA is still figuring out how and when these treatments can be authorized and scientist themselves recognize that although stem cells have the potential to cure many diseases, the science has not made it that far. In Mexico as in the United States, many scientists are optimistic about the applications of stem cells in treating chronic diseases, but know that it is a process of years that requires careful research and clinical trials that give satisfactory results before any of these “promised” therapies can be successfully applied.
In Mexico, local authorities are aware of the problem that medical tourism clinics for stem cell therapies pose: putting the patient at risk and, in an un-regulated market, giving a bad reputation to the stem cell field in general. Leaders such as Sergio Maltos, Subsecretary of Regulation and Health Promotion of the Government of the State of Nuevo Leon and Alvaro Herrera, Executive Subdirector of Health Authorization of COFEPRIS are joining efforts with scientist and local clinics to spot and regulate clinics that offer false hope to patients looking for a stem cell “miracle” that can cure their ailments. The stem cell community in Mexico is coming together to regulate these clinics and show that local scientists have the skills to perform outstanding research that will one day put stem cell therapies in Mexico a reality.
Come to BioPharma Mexico in November to hear what is being done to clean stem cell offerings in Mexico and how research institutions are advancing the field of stem cells in Mexico.