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Scientists want to stop unapproved therapies from putting patients at risk

When you or your close one is sick, you would do anything to reach the best possible treatment. And some people are willing to use this by advertising some unproven therapies. In fact, this business is so vast, people travel across the world just from hope that some novel treatment may do them well. Now a group of scientists are calling for clampdown on medical tourism.

Unapproved medical treatments, usually involving stem cell transplantation, can cause more harm than good. Image credit: Jonas Petraitis via Clump, Wikimedia

There is nothing wrong in going to another country to get a treatment that is not available in yours. However, this treatment has to be scientifically proven and tested, otherwise it may be dangerous. For example, many ill people see stem cells therapies like the best, most effective way to get well, but in many cases it is simply not tested. Hundreds of clinics around the world are marketing their stem cell therapies as capable repairing multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, even though there is no scientific basis to this. Not only these therapies would not be effective, they can be dangerous.

Transplantation of stem cells is a real and proven therapy, but only in some cases. Blood and skin stem cells are transplanted to treat certain types of cancer and to grow skin grafts for patients with severe burns. These therapies have been approved because of extensive clinical trials that they were taken through. Meanwhile unproven therapies are often advertised directly to patients, trying to dodge attention from various institutions and to convince people to pay huge amounts of money for a “certain cure”. However, there is no evidence that these therapies will help and will not cause more harm than positive effects. Scientists have just started pushing for a stronger control over these treatments after two children at a clinic in Germany have died in 2010. This clinic provided untested treatments and has since been closed.

Now scientists are calling for a coordinated global action against the practice of advertising untested treatments. All suspicious advertisements should be questioned and their motifs checked.  Untested and not approved treatments should be stopped as soon as they are detected. Dr Sarah Chan, one of the scientists signing this calling, said: “Many patients feel that potential cures are being held back by red tape and lengthy approval processes. Although this can be frustrating, these procedures are there to protect patients from undergoing needless treatments that could put their lives at risk”.

People choose unproven treatments knowing that they are not approved. They just want some more hope and are willing to risk making the situation even worse. They must know all the risks involved and that approved solutions are always more trustworthy.

 

Source: University of Edinburgh

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