Stop Promoting The Bahamas as a ‘Medical Tourism’ Destination

With all this current stem cell talk, Bahamians need to know that stem cell treatments for most health conditions are still in both the research and clinical trials phase in the United States and Europe and haven’t received approval from the following two major agencies in the US and UK – the FDA (US Food & Drug Administration) and the EMA (European Medicines Agency based in the UK).

This means most stem cell treatments people claim may have miraculous effects are not approved or accepted yet by the medical community. So we need to stop using this term “medical tourism” as it relates to The Bahamas – thus giving foreigners the impression that they can travel to The Bahamas to get what they cannot get back home.

Several years ago I worked as a pharmaceutical laboratory analyst at Syntex in Freeport; a facility that was under FDA jurisdiction, producing the active ingredients for drugs including one many of you take for pain relief – Aleve. I know how stringent the FDA regulation process is; it’s not quick or simple and our sun, sand and sea are irrelevant therein. If the FDA came down to audit us and we failed an audit (which thankfully never happened), everything would have been immediately shut down.

This is because we were manufacturing medicines for human treatment. This is why nothing about medicine ought to be promoted as a tourism matter – medicine and science are not pleasure fields. And regarding stem cell treatments, if patients cannot get the treatments as approved medical therapies in the US and the UK, they ought not be able to get them here either.

Because of the current stem cell circus in Parliament this information has not been clearly communicated to the public, and most importantly, it also hasn’t been defined which area of stem cell work The Bahamas is seeking to go into – research, clinical trials or treatments. Cellular research simply put, is confined to scientists in a lab. Clinical trials are where the outcomes from that research are tested on living subjects (animal or human). The end result – once approved – is treatments.

Since the government has decided to put immediate healthcare needs of Bahamians on the back burner and focus on a science still under critical review in industrialized countries, it must tell the country definitively which aspect of this science it plans to thrust The Bahamas into (research, trials or treatments) and for whom – because it wont be for Bahamians since as I’ve pointed out, stem cell treatments for most medical conditions have not yet been approved by the US and UK. So Bahamians will not be walking into a clinic in The Bahamas next month and receive treatments or cures approved by the medical community for the chronic diseases a majority of Bahamians suffer from.

Our governments should stop promoting medicine as a moneymaking venture for The Bahamas. When money is the primary focus, everything else that pertains to regulations and standards goes out the window.

Sharon Turner