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Wealthy Americans Turning To Europe For Medical Treatment

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the I-can-afford-to-heal-this-well dept.

Medicine 519

theodp writes "Fox Sports' Jay Glazer reports that prior to undergoing recent neck surgery, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning flew to Europe for stem-cell therapy that's used overseas but not yet in the United States. Earlier this year, Fortune reported that prior to his liver transplant, Apple CEO Steve Jobs took an unpublicized flight to Switzerland to undergo an unusual radiological treatment which was not available in the U.S. Some Americans are willing to go abroad to seek what they can't find at home in hopes of improving — or saving — their lives, and health providers are eager to respond. 'It moves fast, this industry,' said the director of Medical Tours International in 2007. 'They think, 'Look at all these sick, rich patients.''"

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dodging anti-science? (2, Insightful)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439374)

Could this have anything to do with dodging anti-science policies of the American far right?

Re:dodging anti-science? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439392)

I used to be cool with Jesus....then I found out he hated science. :/

Christ versus Christians (5, Insightful)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439482)

"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." - Mohandas Gandhi

Jesus Himself does in many ways seem like a positive example; people following the obnoxious behavior of the Old Testament God seems to be the issue IMHO. Christians not partaking of such behavior is good, but in some ways they seem to be glossing over that issue in the Book.

Re:Christ versus Christians (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439550)

What's worse is that the bible doesn't mention science in any way. Nowhere it is written that progress is to be abandoned.

Re:Christ versus Christians (2)

spamking (967666) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439692)

Exactly . . . why would anyone infer that we're not supposed to use our God-given abilities to improve our lives?

Re:Christ versus Christians (5, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439572)

Most Christians do not realize Jesus was pretty cool to the people of different faith than him, allowing them their own beliefs so long as they didn't bother the people of his faith.

Jesus, however was extremely intolerant. At least, he was intolerant to those of his own faith who abused it for their own benefits. I can only imagine what he'd do to the Christian right, right now.

Re:Christ versus Christians (0)

spamking (967666) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439676)

Most Christians do not realize Jesus was pretty cool to the people of different faith than him, allowing them their own beliefs so long as they didn't bother the people of his faith.

Care to provide an example of how Jesus was "pretty cool" in this way?

Re:Christ versus Christians (1)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439660)

Amen! Let's get the boys and girls together and have a laying of hands!

(which I think had been scientifically proven to have some kind of beneficial relaxation effect [citation needed])

Re:dodging anti-science? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439400)

Dodgin antiscience he went to get stem-cell therapy?! I think this one belongs to the dodging science folder.

Re:dodging anti-science? (0)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439440)

Yeah, that made it pretty obvious to me as well.

Re:dodging anti-science? (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439588)

Maybe dodging proper testing, but if he wants to be a guinea pig, I'd say he's not dodging proper science, he's helping it along by providing a test subject.

Re:dodging anti-science? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439658)

If you want to be a guinea pig you can be a guinea pig here too, but insurance isn't going to pay for it

Re:dodging anti-science? (0)

chris.alex.thomas (1718644) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439682)

who said the insurance paid for it in europe?

Re:dodging anti-science? (1)

lynnae (2439544) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439406)

add the FDA to that.

No, I'm not insinuating that other countries do dangerous things and the FDA is completely right to protect us wickle unedumacated people, just that the FDA does restrict procedures or hasn't yet approved procedures, that are safely available in other countries.

Re:dodging anti-science? (3, Insightful)

dougmc (70836) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439490)

that are safely available in other countries.

To be fair, stem cell treatments aren't quite known to be safe (or effective) yet.

There is a lot of promise there, but as I understand it, many of them don't seem particularly effective yet and the safety is uncertain.

The FDA is very conservative -- that much is clear. Perhaps *too* conservative, especially in the case of patients who are dying -- but there's a good reason for them to be conservative.

Re:dodging anti-science? (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439602)

I believe there are cases where the treatments are known to be effective.

As for safe, I think, due to the nature of the beast, we have 20-30 years of testing, minimal before we can determine that, due to potential long-term effects (however unlikely they may be).

Re:dodging anti-science? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439800)

Doctor: Sorry, we can't do anything else. You have about 6 months at the most.
Person on deathbed: What about Stem cell theraphy or something such shit?
Doctor:NO NO!! They can KILL YOU!!
Person on deathbed: WTF????

More Like Patients Dodging Federal Regulation (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439428)

Could this have anything to do with dodging anti-science policies of the American far right?

I know it's fun to jump on the scientifically inept politicians but I might also cite general concern for what a stem cell treatment entails [slashdot.org] . Several medical professionals have explained to me that just randomly injecting stem cells into your body has unknown effects depending on the stem cells and the localization of the injection. This causes a variance of anything from magically cured to cancer-like growths. Stem cells aren't very well understood yet ... and some of that is to blame on halting embryonic stem cell research but even the Republicans are okay with non-embryonic stem cells [slashdot.org] . As we develop more ways to get stem cells, their hobbling of the US medical field becomes moot (assuming adult stem cells are just as awesome as embryonic stem cells -- something I don't know).

So, yeah, you know the FDA and other regulators are pretty slow moving to approve all this in the United States until that becomes more science than "Let's see, you take the syringe here and inject this shit there and ... are you cured yet? Oh, you died? Well, send in the next medical tourist!" Why doesn't the article explain what "procedure" or "treatment" Tonya Winchester was administered in Russia?

Re:More Like Patients Dodging Federal Regulation (4, Informative)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439522)

even the Republicans are okay with non-embryonic stem cells

So it's all about the fetuses.

I see...

Re:More Like Patients Dodging Federal Regulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439678)

If fetuses were a moral object along the lines of an ingrown toenail, there should be no problems with forcibly aborting fetuses who will need lifelong care.

I mean, if a woman had an ingrown toenail that would cause a cost to society of millions then yes, it would be forcibly removed.

Conclusion: Fetuses are not similar moral objects to hair sacks and toenails, even though that is the moral calculation deceitful mini-Machiavellian leftards like to present in order to demobilise and distract the peanut gallery.

Re:More Like Patients Dodging Federal Regulation (5, Insightful)

Jazari (2006634) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439528)

This causes a variance of anything from magically cured to cancer-like growths.

There is absolutely no danger in using stem cell to treat a fatal disease. So what if your stem cell injection may cause cancer in 2 years if your current disease will cause death in 6 months? Patients who are close to death should be allowed to opt into almost any treatment that has a plausible chance of success (unlike therapies which are proven frauds, like homeopathy, etc.)

Re:More Like Patients Dodging Federal Regulation (4, Insightful)

definate (876684) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439690)

Good point. Though, as it stands, the government is more than happy to allow you to spend insane amounts of money on frauds. My mother actually deals with this a lot, as she works with the sickest people, in the worst circumstances, and watches them spend all their money on things such as (these aren't a joke)...
Belly Button Massage
Reiki
Prayer Circles
Crystals
Potions/Elixars
Chiropractors
etc.

These people come in promising the world, provide temporary happiness, followed by a crushing sense of what have I done, I've left my family broke, and I'm still dying.

In comparison, even the worst possible scenario you could see with medical practitioners doing trying 'dangerous' (READ: experimental) medicine, looks insignificant in comparison.

Re:More Like Patients Dodging Federal Regulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439728)

In general, they can, the catch is that such unverified treatments are "experimental" and so not covered by most insurance - the insurance companies, rightly on behalf of those that pay into the program, don't generally cover experimental treatments.

Re:More Like Patients Dodging Federal Regulation (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439746)

There is absolutely no danger in using stem cell to treat a fatal disease ... Patients who are close to death should be allowed to opt into almost any treatment that has a plausible chance of success (unlike therapies which are proven frauds, like homeopathy, etc.)

I mostly agree with you, but the traditional responses are:

1) "Binary thinking for the fail" Other than, say, a gunshot wound to the heart, or decapitation, very few medical conditions are 100% long term fatal. I think we can safely assume that within the next 200 years I'll be dead, therefore my your argument is morally and ethically correct for me to take any treatment I want. Logic chopper types are gonna hack your argument up like a bad gintzu knife infomercial.

2) No danger to the patient, but there is one to society. Think of combos. Most diseases get a mix of treatments, all of which contribute. So, he took stem cells, homeopathy, astrological readings, and chiropractic treatments and that cured him 100%. Ignorant fool sees that result, says, self, I have no medical insurance and can't afford stem cell treatment, but I can afford homeopathy, astrological readings, and chiropractic treatments, so that means I "must" have a 75% success rate, right? This leads to all manner of foolishness.

3) All treatments, to some extent, cause harm to the world. Burning oil, wasting money that could have gone to govt selected winners instead of the average population, etc. So you gotta balance, call it government death panels, or insurance company profit margin improvement teams or living wills or whatever. Given a treatment that would result in an extra week of life at a cost of permanent lifetime poverty for all descendants, some choose one way, some choose another. Some treatments are outright dangerous to the population as a whole, like antibiotic treatments for a virus. Pump an HIV carrier full of antibiotics, all you'll get is a source of antibiotic resistant bacteria, which is bad for everybody.

Re:More Like Patients Dodging Federal Regulation (5, Insightful)

definate (876684) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439530)

Turns out that the problem with what you've pointed out, isn't necessarily stem cell treatments in general, but more so, those people were forced to go to Thailand. Why Thailand? Because it's also doing the treatments, but they're cheaper. This article is about the rich people, going to rich progressive countries, with well trained, and well staffed hospitals, and getting the kind of treatments that the scientifically inept politicians have banned... because, after all, politicians know better than doctors and scientists, especially when it comes to, you know, health care and science.

As such your complete argument is both retarded, and false. This IS happening due to the scientifically inept politicians. Unless you're saying that the Swiss are a reckless people with a terrible health care system. If so, the WHO [wikimedia.org] begs to differ. So, for all your harping on, you're completely wrong, and your discussion on whether or not YOU or your unnamed sources believe it's correct/worthwhile/dangerous, is a red herring.

But thanks for your useless input.

Re:More Like Patients Dodging Federal Regulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439710)

You are making a lot of assumptions here. You assume this is a legitimate treatment (this particular treatment, not stem cell therapy), you assume the treatment is administered by doctors under the auspices of a legitimate hospital or research clinic, and you assume that the Swiss authorities approve of this treatment.

Re:More Like Patients Dodging Federal Regulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439828)

Unless you're saying that the Swiss are a reckless people with a terrible health care system.

Not sure what the GP thinks, but I'll say that the Swiss are highly likely to look the other way when it profits them.

Re:More Like Patients Dodging Federal Regulation (2)

andydread (758754) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439592)

Well those treatments probably would have been here if it wasn't for the endless regulation of the Federal Gubmint. Not to worry. The republicans want to get rid of entities such as the FDA, EPA, etc. So when they get back in power look for all these entities to be severely crippled. And people can get their treatments without having to worry about pesky things like safety.

Re:More Like Patients Dodging Federal Regulation (1)

durrr (1316311) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439622)

Only allowing non-embryonic stem cell research makes it rather problematic to crossmatch what markers are typically embryonic and therefor more likely to result in teratoma-like growth patterns from induced stem cells.

Re:More Like Patients Dodging Federal Regulation (2)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439626)

Yes, if you go to Thailand and grab yourself some Stem Cell treatment, they'll do that, and that is fucking dangerous.

However, there are other treatments, where they use the stem cells to grow differentiated cells (either in-situ or in-vitro), and use THOSE to treat the patient. It is still stem cell treatment, but not necessarily nearly as dangerous.

Re:More Like Patients Dodging Federal Regulation (3, Informative)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439632)

and some of that is to blame on halting embryonic stem cell research but even the Republicans are okay with non-embryonic stem cells [slashdot.org].

Your post is spot on, with one minor common misconception.

Embryonic stem cell research was not "halted". Since there was no federal funding for stem cell research at all, you may not halt something that never existed. President Bush's order forbade federal funding for embryonic stem cell research on new stem cell lines only. Research on embryonic stem cells from lines that existed at that time was to be funded, where it wasn't before, and there was no restrictions on non-embryonic stem cell research.

Re:More Like Patients Dodging Federal Regulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439786)

Randomly firing bullets from your a gun in your hand can also have unknown effects. I don't see anyone using that reasoning to ban firearm possession. Randomly placing a checkmark on a ballot can also have very far-reaching consequences, but I don't see anyone using that as an argument against democracy.

Your point being?

Re:dodging anti-science? (4, Informative)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439504)

No, it doesn't.

It comes from the US law that medical devices and drugs cannot be marketed without FDA clearance. 21 CFR 820 and so on. That takes a lot of time and money.

It also comes from the US hospitals being very conservative when it comes to offering new procedures. Technically doctors can do just about anything. Even use devices and drugs "off label", by passing FDA requirements. But in reality, doctors must get approval from hospital IRB's before doing something experimental. IRB's are conservative, political, and slow. Most docs prefer to just stick with routine stuff.

But if you are rich, you can bypass those safety check and go to another country for experimental procedures using uncleared drugs and devices.

Re:dodging anti-science? (3, Interesting)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439770)

"But if you are rich, you can bypass ..."

If you are poor, you can get a flight plus a multiple bypass in Europe for the sum of a couple of months insurance in the US.

For a couple of hundred bucks you can get a cheap flight plus an abortion in Amsterdam or London.

Re:dodging anti-science? (4, Insightful)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439792)

It also comes from the US hospitals being very conservative when it comes to offering new procedures.

But, but, duriing the health care "debate" we were told that all inovation came from the wonderful free market American system and the socilist eurofags would be screwed if they couldn't steal American ideas.

I'm so confused.

Re:dodging anti-science? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439510)

Could this have anything to do with dodging anti-science policies of the American far right?

No, it has nothing to do with that. There are unique, specialized treatments in every corner of the Earth. If they're successful, they'll spread.

Plenty of people travel in all directions to seek advanced care, even (especially) to your 'anti-science' America, and the wealthier the patient the easier it is for him to travel for medical care (or poorer, if they don't have insurance and are seeking affordable care).

Re:dodging anti-science? (3, Insightful)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439556)

Could this have anything to do with dodging anti-science policies of the American far right?

No. It has to do with the FDA making absolutely positively sure that a treatment is safe, or at least that we know all the possible risks associated with each treatment. This takes years to complete for each and every treatment, which means that during those years, any treatment under investigation or medical trials will be unavailable in the US.

Of course, don't let the facts stop you from making your anti-Christian remarks. You should blame those dastardly Christians for everything you see wrong in the world. On Slashdot, it will even get you modded "Insightful", even though your comment is based on no facts whatsoever. Kinda like what you accuse Christians of doing.

Re:dodging anti-science? (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439814)

Could this have anything to do with dodging anti-science policies of the American far right?

No. It has to do with the FDA making absolutely positively sure that a treatment is safe, or at least that we know all the possible risks associated with each treatment. This takes years to complete for each and every treatment, which means that during those years, any treatment under investigation or medical trials will be unavailable in the US.

And Switzerland is well known as a hot-bed of crazy risk taking

Re:dodging anti-science? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439782)

Or, it could have something to do with the fact that these procedures are only available to the obscenely wealthy in countries where 10 years of FDA trials aren't needed.

Whenever this debate comes up, I'm always reminded of the Christopher Reeve South Park episode. The mega-rich would probably dine on live infants if they thought it would prolong or save their lives.

religion (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439378)

maybe because most other countries in the modern world don't have a large rabidly religious and anti-science segment of their populations.

Re:religion (0, Flamebait)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439750)

Actually, they do. Europe, especially [pewforum.org] . But I'm sure that has everything to do with the FDA wanting to make sure new treatments don't kill more patients than they save.

Ding, Ding, Ding (1)

cbope (130292) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439380)

... you sir, are correct!

This can't be true! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439388)

This can't be true. We have the best health care system on earth! I heard it on Fox News, so it must be true.

Re:This can't be true! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439532)

Considering that Steve Jobs is not likely to see 2012 and Manning out for the year. I think we might be ok for awhile.

Re:This can't be true! (4, Informative)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439634)

No you have the most expensive health care system on earth. Per capita, Cuba has the best health care system on earth.

Re:This can't be true! (1)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439738)

How do you even measure that? Health care quality is already normally measured in cases per thousand people (or ten thousand, or whatever).

Re:This can't be true! (4, Informative)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439796)

Indicators (infant mortality, maternal mortality, life expectancy) versus cost per capita. It's measurable. Not my area of specialty but I am a physician. I remember discussing it at length both in biostatistics and family medicine courses. Cuba and Canada were always near the top, and the US usually ends up between 7th and 16th place. Of course this varies year by year but the trend is pretty obvious. Look it up! I'm sure the world heath organization must have some searchable tables.

Re:This can't be true! (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439838)

No you have the most expensive health care system on earth. Per capita, Cuba has the best health care system on earth.

What does this mean? What are you dividing up "per capita"?

Buthe US market produces a superiour health system (2)

samjam (256347) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439390)

The US market produces a superiour health system doesn't it?

Or maybe it's what you get with a health-care system that's more about money than health...

Does this mean that health-care is a euphemism like health-and-safety?

Re:Buthe US market produces a superiour health sys (2)

lolococo (574827) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439476)

Sounds more like wealth care than health care to me.

Re:Buthe US market produces a superiour health sys (2)

samjam (256347) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439536)

I like your .sig --- literally true when t is time

Re:Buthe US market produces a superiour health sys (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439652)

It has nothing to do with socialized vs free market medicine. What it does have to do is that the FDA won't legalize a lot of practices that are commonplace in most European countries. In fact, you could say in this regard European countries have a more free market in health care procedures than the US.

Re:Buthe US market produces a superiour health sys (2)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439776)

Of course it is, but that little fact isn't going to stop the people who want socialized medicine in the US from using this article as a strawman to attack US health care.

So what? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439396)

This has been going on for years. When dying of cancer Any Kauffman went to Mexico so a faith healer could stuff his colon full of coffee beans. Going to Europe for stem cell treatment is no different.

Medical tourism. (1)

knuthin (2255242) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439410)

I know a bunch of people who came from Israel and certain other nations for getting treated in India.

Medical tourism [wikimedia.org] as they call it. And it has been on a rise, mostly because of the lower margins in healthcare insurance business. The problem is for people who don't have insurances and can't pay for traveling outside their nation. They are fucked either ways then. :/

Re:Medical tourism. (4, Interesting)

dougmc (70836) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439454)

The problem is for people who don't have insurances and can't pay for traveling outside their nation.

Fortunately, Mexico is quite close and can be visited cheaply, especially if you live in Texas or another close state.

I've got some friends who went down their for major dental work (nothing controversial or unavailable here) and paid a small fraction of what they were quoted in the US.

Re:Medical tourism. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439508)

That's because the doctors in Mexico don't have to cough up $100k or more in malpractice insurance premiums before they can every start practicing.

Re:Medical tourism. (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439546)

My brother got a large amount of medical work done in Thailand, from one of the top clinics in Bangkok. This and a two week holiday touring in very good hotels cost him roughly the same as having it done at home. They were also fully insured - the only caveat being that remedial treatment would also have to be in Thailand and they did not cover travel and accommodation, though everything went fine anyway.

Medical tourism definition (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439604)

Yeah, normally the term "medical tourism" seems to be associated with simply getting commonly available procedures on the cheap

Medical Tourist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439422)

Isn't this quite common? For example, people from Europe often go to places in Asia for surgery as a part of their holiday. There's a whole Wikipedia page on the topic [wikipedia.org] .

Happy "Talk Like a Faggot" day (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439430)

Be sure to tell anyone who talks like a pirate today that they are a faggot.

Re:Happy "Talk Like a Faggot" day (3, Informative)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439564)

Be sure to tell anyone who talks like a pirate today that they are a faggot.

You fool - I just tried it and now I've been keelhauled.

Let's face it, US gov't: Adam Smith wins (5, Interesting)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439442)

Let's see.

Middle income Americans go to Canada for their pharmaceuticals.
Thousands of US patients of all types go to Mexico and points south for all sorts of surgeries that aren't (yet, or ever) available in the US.
This story points to wealthy Americans going elsewhere for not-yet-approved 'edgy' radiological treatments, or stem cell therapies not practiced here.

Some on the left are going to see only that last one, and once again blame Bush for crippling US stem cell research. The fact is that is only seeing a single symptom of a more chronic condition: when you have a system crippled by politics and paralyzed by excessive litigation. when ideas, procedures, and research is circumscribed not by practicality or technology, but by policy set by science-illiterate representatives voted into their positions by a science-ignorant public for decades...well, what did we expect?

Clearly, some Americans are choosing with their WALLETS that value is more important than litiginous recourse - if you're buying a cut-rate surgery in Mexico, you're not really scrutinizing their malpractice coverage. If you're buying your heart medication from some website *.ca, FDA approval is clearly not your primary concern.

Don't get me wrong; anyone conversant with US history will recognize the consistency here. The US has always has a population that is non-intellectual, I believe even de Tocqueville commented on that in 1830. But like so many things in American popular culture, it seems the currents have somehow lately surged to tidal waves that threaten to swamp the whole boat.

Then again, that could just be me shouting "get off my lawn" like so many generations before ...

Re:Let's face it, US gov't: Adam Smith wins (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439520)

You sound non-intellectual.

Re:Let's face it, US gov't: Adam Smith wins (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439662)

And you sound like you are talking to yourself.

Re:Let's face it, US gov't: Adam Smith wins (3, Insightful)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439598)

Americans look to Canada for drugs to avoid the price fixing set by the drug companies here (note that Adam Smith opposed the idea of monopolies, yet you need more than an invisible hand to shake those particular economic monsters from their stranglehold on the flow of resources). With regards to Mexico, I'm just seeing stories about Americans going south for cost reasons (perhaps because we don't have socialized medicine? Nah, can't be).

As noted above (http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2434238&cid=37439428), some of the rush to Europe has to do with trying procedures that have enjoyed less rigorous testing than here (which has its good and bad sides. I don't understand why allergy drops are not yet mainstream treatment in the US, but the risks of certain kinds of stem cell treatment does make sense).

Not to take away from your other points.

policy set by science-illiterate representatives voted into their positions by a science-ignorant public for decades

Now THAT is a valid concern indeed. There's no need to whip up Adam Smith or economics as the boogey man here, since it lack of regulation of drug company pricing, lack of socialized medicine coupled with strong regulation of new medical procedures and over regulation of medical research (stem cell research) are all the source of the medical tourism being described. (Excessive litigation has nothing to do with it, and it is getting annoying seeing that card played over and over again).

In other words, it isn't something as simple as "the market is winning, we need less regulation".

Re:Let's face it, US gov't: Adam Smith wins (2)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439764)

The litigation started to really ramp up when the FDA started "streamlining" the medine approval process to favor big incumbent medical corps, while making the cost of approval so large that only those big incumbents could afford to risk producing a new product. Meanwhile extending patent and other monopoly protections of profits far beyond what's required to protect required profitability and into extreme profitability. While limiting liabilities from when medicine is pushed on patients but fails in ways either known to be excessively risky during R&D or production, or known not to have been quantified as risks.

That time coincided with the capture by pharmacos and other medical product makers/marketers of medical professionals, starting in med school. So doctors and pharmacists are mainly retailers of medical products, not caretakers of patients' health. Of course the parallel growth of parasitic lawyers was inevitable, but without the medical infrastructure to feed on they would seek blood elsewhere.

I know this because I was pre-med in the mid-late 1980s, and have worked IT for many insurance businesses. Reagan reinvented the FDA, and along with it the medical education system in the US. The primary constraint on US medicine is the failure to produce more practicing doctors, which has slipped far behind the growth in demand for medicine (growing and aging population, excessive environmental risks including diet and toxins, newly available diagnostics and treatments). We should have at least double the number of doctors, but the medical industry "weeds out" candidates for the profession, selecting more on the basis of greed and tolerance of hazing than on compassion and intellect.

Adam Smith was right about supply and demand. The US has increased its demand for medicine while constraining its supply. Thus medicine is much more expensive. US politicians and officials are science-illiterate, but they're also compassion-retarded. Americans are easily fooled by corporate marketing trolling with theocracy and other social bigotry/stupidity. The results are found in Bush's choking stemcell research, but the causes are systemic.

Health industry of health system ? (4, Insightful)

Pascal Sartoretti (454385) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439448)

Although European countries have very different systems, they rather each have a health system whereas the US have a health industry. It shouldn't be surprising that one has better medical results and the other one better financial results...

Re:Health industry of health system ? (1)

Reservoir Penguin (611789) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439708)

Insightful? Hardly, no amount of bold text will make a logical argument appear where there is none. You have not proven at all that a 'system' is better then 'industry'. North Korea also has a 'system' and I'm willing to be it does not produce results comparable to US 'industry'.

Rich people do things poor people can't News at 11 (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439450)

Why is this news? Rich people have more money than poor people (Duh - thats an indicator that they are rich) and that allows them to do things that poor people can't. Whether that is normal or medical tourism.
 
What would be news is reports of successful treatments that are available overseas but not in the US.

Euros travel to America, too, for treatment. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439452)

So what's the point of this?

Some treatments are simply more available in certain countries.

No, I'm not defending America's approach to healthcare, but I've seen the same bloody argument used from the other side for all the America-bound medical tourism from rich Canadians and Euros, and in the end it means absolutely nothing. Rich people travel a lot. Rich people min/max their medicine.

Re:Euros travel to America, too, for treatment. (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439732)

I'm glad someone beat me to saying it. Using a few outliers as representative of the whole is not sound thinking. Sure, what they're doing may be part of a larger trend, and if so, it's fine to tie that in to make an argument. But looking at these cases in a vacuum is misleading, since it ignores the multitude of cases where people travel to America for treatment, as well as anything happening to anyone besides the super-rich. As with you, I'm not defending what America has or suggesting we should throw out this information, but as /.ers, I'd hope we'd have the sense to place it in the proper context and understand it as being a very small part of a very large global system, rather than using it as proof positive that America is circling the drain or what-have-you.

Re:Euros travel to America, too, for treatment. (0)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439748)

but I've seen the same bloody argument used from the other side for all the America-bound medical tourism from rich Canadians and Euros,

[Citation needed]

Flying to America for healthcare ranks about as desirable as flying to America to get randomly shot during a mugging. Unless that is tourists actually desire to see the insanely expensive, lawyer and politics riddled comic relief of what you call healthcare.

Sick rich patients? (1)

The Immutable (2459842) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439464)

The medical industry doesn't care if you're rich when it's government funded and non profit, the way it should be.

Re:Sick rich patients? (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439500)

Medical treatment and insurance are products, just like any other products, funding this by government covers corner cases but does a terrible disservice to the overall economy - the people.

Re:Sick rich patients? (2)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439680)

No, they are services. You cannot quantify health. In fact you have a hard time even defining health. And no, it's not "the absence of disease".

Re:Sick rich patients? (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439740)

I said that health care is a product, you can argue it's a service, but the point stays. Be it a product or a service (and it's both, as medicines and various instruments and machines and hospitals are products, but actual work that is done by physicians, surgeons, professionals are services.) It's the same thing with a restaurant or with facebook - they are products and services, market rules apply regardless.

Re:Sick rich patients? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439730)

funding this by government covers corner cases but does a terrible disservice to the overall economy - the people.

Not if you do the math.
The cost to society for just having a single person go withput healthcare is huge. The lost taxes on the lost income adds up pretty quick. From societys point of view it makes fiscal sense to make sure that healthcare is always covered for everyone.
Wether it's fair or not is another matter.

FDA (2, Interesting)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439468)

Thank the Food and Drug administration for this. We had [slashdot.org] stories on /. about this before.

Government money in health care and insurance is the reason why these are so expensive now [slashdot.org] , when technology should have made all of the health care much cheaper (unlike many people believe, technology increases efficiencies and makes things less expensive, not more. Think about imaging methods that replaced exploratory surgeries. Think how many more patients a single surgeon can see today. Think cancer treatments done with drugs or machines, that would have required surgery. etc.etc. Increase in technology makes products cheaper, not more expensive).

But not only does FDA hurt you financially, they are a major reason for various techniques not getting timely approval, so again, as an example an abortion pill [wikipedia.org] that was used for decades in Europe made it into USA decades later.

Of-course from my POV, FDA is just another government agency, standing in between you and your freedoms and liberties. Figuring out the safety of medical procedures is one thing, and it should be done privately too, by private competing certification agencies. Figuring out the efficacy should be left to the market because the market will do so much quicker and at a very low expense, when compared to the clinical trials that may last for decades and waste hundreds of millions of dollars to run them.

Re:FDA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439538)

Having worked in the health insurance industry, that is complete non-sense. The reason the costs are so high is due to law suits, high cost of med school, health insurance policies and inefficiency of handling claims. The government is a factor, but it's a small factor. Depending on the company, the cost of administering a policy is around 40-65%. Most health insurance companies are constantly trying to find ways to be more efficient, but it's a difficult problem to solve. You can blame the government all you want, but that's not going make your health insurance cheaper.

Re:FDA (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439636)

Oh really? [wsj.com]

Nonsense, is it? [washingtonpost.com]

Nonsense? [healthcare-economist.com]

Nonsense? [supplementquality.com]

What about clear violation [nejm.org] of their very policies on SAFETY? Nonsense?

But if you worked in "health insurance industry", you'd never want FDA to stop doing what they do, after all, any government involvement is beneficial for large corporations, who gain monopoly/oligopoly power by restricting access of small competitors, by forcing any innovator to seek sponsorship of large pharma company, by having government money in insurance, which is the reason that insurance premiums are as high as they are and climbing, having insurance attached to people's jobs, which is the reason there is a problem of "preexisting-conditions" in the first place, because once you change your job and if you have a "condition", it's that much harder to get coverage again.

In a free market an American would have been able to buy health insurance privately from any provider from ANYWHERE in the world.

Why can't an American buy health insurance from Singapore?

Re:FDA (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439600)

While there is room for debate as to whether one needs a state entity to do safety and efficacy trials, you really lost me when you asserted that "the market" will determine efficacy more quickly and cheaply than a clinical trial...

How, pray tell, will that happen?

Re:FDA (3, Informative)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439696)

when you asserted that "the market" will determine efficacy more quickly and cheaply than a clinical trial...

- what do you think happened before FDA?

Look at the way doctors have cooperated in the past to pass the information they gathered about treatment of different conditions and different cases. Private market provides huge exposure to any type of treatment, and if it is safe of-course, it will quickly be understood whether there is enough evidence that the treatment works. People exchange information without government, did you know that?

Look at the way Mayo clinic was established - people were exchanging information and that made that clinic very competitive, people used to come to USA from all over the world to visit Mayo clinic because of CREDENTIALS, that were EARNED, not dictated by any government.

It was competition that drove people to that clinic, which quickly disseminated similar approaches to treatment and information sharing among professionals everywhere in the world.

It's like an iPhone - once one exists, everybody is going to emulate it based on success, which is measured in sales and profits.

Profits are the feedback mechanism, which is the way the market tells the entrepreneur that he is on the right track. This is the same with iPads and health care.

Re:FDA (0)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439618)

Europe's healthcare systems, where the treatments in this story are found, are much more regulated and government financed than in the US.

Government money isn't preventing the abortion pill. Theocrat money, that promoted Republican rule that you sucker "libertarians" voted for every chance you got, paid to prevent the abortion pill that's available in Europe. Where the government paid to develop and distribute it. Much to the dismay of "libertarians" and theocrats.

Once again, your dogma makes you attack government in the US, even by hitting it with actual socialism elsewhere. You are so dogmatic that you'll lie by ignoring the truth. And are putty in the hands of the theocrats for whom dogma and lies are a way of life.

Re:FDA (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439718)

There is nothing as regulated and government financed as what is found in USA.

SS, education loans, bank bailouts - these are things that are done in USA specifically in order to transfer funds from government to the preferred corporations, that lobby the politicians with the money, and the money that is transfered is ALWAYS greater in total amounts than what is found anywhere else in the world.

What is the exact mechanism that prevents the abortion pill from entering the US market would not be possible, were it not for FDA.

The rest of your comment is ad-hominem BS.

Quality vs. Availability (2)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439480)

It's an important distinction to make. People come to the US for the quality, and people from the US go elsewhere for availability, usually in desperation.

Re:Quality vs. Availability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439542)

Yes, you nailed that one right in the head. Because, obviously, that football quarterback fellow and that other computer geek guy are dirt poor and could not afford the superior quality medical care offered to them in the US. Poor them, had to fly all the way to stinky poor ol'Europe in their terrible, awful private jets to go get treated in inferior Europe, where doctors and hospitals are a dime a dozen on the street corner.

Oh, the humanity!

Re:Quality vs. Availability (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439666)

You completely misread what he said. To rephrase so that even someone like you can understand. People come to the U.S. for medical care because of the overall quality of the care. However, there are some conditions that do not yet have a good treatment approved in the U.S. (due to the length of time and complexity of getting a new treatment approved by the FDA). In those cases, the wealthy from the U.S. will go somewhere where those treatments are available (or, at least some treatment is available, even if its efficacy is questionable).

Re:Quality vs. Availability (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439576)

It's an important distinction to make. People come to the US for the quality, and people from the US go elsewhere for availability, usually in desperation.

Applies to many things but not hookers or Mexican food.

Yu0 Fai7 It (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439494)

bQig deal. Dea7h

Oh no... (3, Insightful)

fullback (968784) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439496)

This isn't going to be pretty when the "We're Number One!" and "USA! USA! USA!" crowd gets here.

Overly Simplistic (4, Informative)

psnyder (1326089) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439512)

Medical treatment varies greatly from disease to disease, from country to country.
If you're looking for a general overview of the quality of care in a country, look at the survival rates of the widespread ones within a group.

For example, if judging cancer survival, you might look at prostate, breast, colon, and rectal.
"The highest survival rates were found in the U.S. for breast and prostate cancer, in Japan for colon and rectal cancers in men, and in France for colon and rectal cancers in women, Coleman's team reports." [webmd.com]

Re:Overly Simplistic (1)

YojimboJango (978350) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439754)

Yeah, this is pretty standard over hyped fare here. It could as well be, "Worlds best stem cell doctor decides to live in Switzerland." I bet he's rich over there too.

Basically the US has the best medical industry because we pay through the nose for it, and (in general) the best surgeons from around the world can make a killing by living in the states. Doesn't mean that you won't find outstanding doctors that decide, hey living in Europe is more cool than a third BMW.

Wealthy Xians travel to Y... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439566)

The fact is, the wealthy can afford to travel for medical care. Wealthy Europeans also come to America, wealthy Asians go to Europe...if you have money, you can and do go wherever you think you'll get better care.

This really doesn't have anything to do with the overall superiority or inferiority of the medical care in a given country or region; it's just the wealthy doing what wealthy people do.

Global Competition (2)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439580)

These therapies are available, but there aren't that many patients. Not enough to support dispensing the therapies many places in the world.

The US doesn't have to offer every single medical treatment. Not when so many are targeted at so few patients. Not when our medical system isn't properly organized or financed to deliver even basic medical services to nearly everyone in the country first. Basic care for practically everyone is a higher priority than the most exotic care for a few.

The US does deliver that exotic treatment of rare diseases, often uniquely in the world, in vast overproportion to our population or even our weighted socioeconomic status in the world. There's plenty of unusual therapies for other countries to be the only ones to offer.

If we're worried that strategic medical innovation is happening elsewhere, we should simply do what those other countries do in a world they share with the US: piggyback on the basic research and early practice when therapies are new, to commodify them to serve lots more people more cheaply, safely and effectively.

That's how medicine works when it's primarily a service, not primarily a profitable business. The profit is retained, but not at the expense of the majority of the people's needs.

Americans go where? (4, Insightful)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439586)

Doesn't every politician especially from the GOP say that the American Healthcare system and its actual care are the "best" in the world?

By the way, this is despite the fact that various [nejm.org] metrics indicate the USA is no where near the top!

Re:Americans go where? (0)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439736)

Of course, as someone else pointed out, the best way to judge a country's medical care is not by the types of metrics used in that study, but by comparing survival rates for those diagnosed with particular illnesses (where the U.S. ranks much higher). One of the interesting things to look at in the metrics used in the study you linked is "infant mortality rate". In the U.S., if a baby is born alive and dies while still an infant, it counts towards infant moratlity rates. In some countries, if the baby does not survive 24 hours, it is considered still born. There are several other similar variations in how some of the other statistics are counted that make those metrics a suspect way to compare health care systems. Another example, the life expectancy for Japan is higher than for the U.S., yet Japanese-Americans have a higher life expectancy than Japanese living in Japan.

Medicine in America... (4, Interesting)

Kagetsuki (1620613) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439606)

Is one of the major reasons I'm never going back. The last time I went (which will be the last time, period) my son caught a cold and was turned away from three hospitals because we didn't have the right type of insurance. I guess I shouldn't say turned away, I should say they all told me that because I didn't have the right type of insurance and I didn't have the an appointment I would have to go to the ER, which would easily cost thousands of dollars. Here in Japan my son would have been seen immediately, for free, wherever we went. Our medical system isn't socialized either, so don't even try that argument.

Shortly after that my wife had some allergy related breathing issues and we went to a hospital that did accept the insurance we had to get medicine. They diagnosed her with a degenerative lung disorder and ordered up all sorts of tests. Even with the insurance everything cost over $2,000 and guess what - it wasn't a degenerative lung disorder but rather a simple allergy attack like we thought in the beginning. On top of that we found every hospital we went to seemed dirty, was staffed with doctors and nurses who didn't seem to give a shit, and were constantly asked the same questions over and over as if the staff didn't bother to even look at the papers the previous person had filled out. I'm not just talking about one hospital either, all of them we went to were like this.

So yeah, rich Americans go overseas for medical care? Wow, big surprise there.

Re:Medicine in America... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37439824)

should say they all told me that because I didn't have the right type of insurance and I didn't have the an appointment I would have to go to the ER, which would easily cost thousands of dollars.

I'm calling BS on this one. There are tons or urgent care centers that you can go to without an appointment and pay with cash. I doctor's visit for a cold would probably be between 100-200 dollars. Your complaining about no appointment makes me think that you tried to get in at a doctor's office (not urgent care) which you typically need an appointment.

On top of that we found every hospital we went to seemed dirty, was staffed with doctors and nurses who didn't seem to give a shit, and were constantly asked the same questions over and over as if the staff didn't bother to even look at the papers the previous person had filled out.

Every hospital? How many hospitals did you go to? Major signs of trolling here.

Yeah, us less wealthy go to S.E. Asia (5, Interesting)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 3 years ago | (#37439762)

You know, having lived here for awhile, I can strongly recommend some excellent hospitals in Thailand. They are accredited by some American hospital organizations and I've personally used them for the some semi-serious conditions (knee-surgery) as well as very frequent monitoring of some chronic ailments (I'm a hypochondriac!).

It's actually somewhat amazing as to the quality you get for the price. I stayed in a state-of-the-art brand new private hospital suite (with comfortable sitting area for guests, kitchenette, private bath, big screen television, remote controlled curtains, etc.) for less than the cost of one of the five star hotels. The surgery (from what I can tell state-of-the-art laproscopy) was not that cheap (still less than $5K for everything) included everything including recovery and physical therapy. Also, the cute Thai nurses were very pleasant to be around!

Can't say all S.E. Asian countries are like this (there are some I'd stay far away from) but it's a great value for the money (they've got a great executive checkup that includes just about everything; blood tests, stress tests, chest X-rays, ECG, ultrasound, eye and ear tests, meeting with dietitian, etc.) for $250!. I wish that Medicare would pay for some of this stuff, it would save American taxpayers a ton of money (saving much more than transportation costs) while bringing down prices at home.

By the way, the geeks amongst us might enjoy the fact that EVERYTHING is digital at these hospitals and for a small fee (about $8) every report, image, x-ray, ultrasound, endoscopy, MRI, ECG, EKG, video from every visit you've ever had is put onto a CD-ROM for you. I've got quite a collection on my iPad!

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