Top Medical Tourism Destinations

‘Surgical procedure’ and ‘luxurious vacation’ are two concepts that don’t seem to go hand-in-hand, but since the recent rise in healthcare costs, travelers are seeking out medical vacations as a way to see new destinations while undergoing treatments or completing procedures.   According to MedRetreat, a US-based company that specializes in helping travelers obtain appropriate and affordable treatments overseas, medical tourism helps save up to 80% of the total healthcare costs that may be incurred in the US.

Medical_TourismAn overview of four leading destinations for ‘medical tourists’:

1) Mexico – Given the proximity for the American traveler, Mexico is an obvious choice for tourists – especially those within driving distance.  Mexico has a long history of attracting those seeking out alternative treatments for cancer (as recently depicted in the movie ‘Dallas Buyers Club’).   Many pharmaceuticals that are not yet approved in the United States are accessible at one of Mexico’s many cancer institutes.  Mexico has also become known for more affordable dental treatments and plastic surgeries.

2) Panama – In 2011, Panama began a new program issuing free health insurance to all tourists during the first 30 days of their stay.  Although coverage is limited, given the attractive climate and location, Panama has seen a 20% rise in medical tourism since making this change.  “Health insurance is an incentive for tourists visiting Panama as well as all other attractions of the country as a tourist destination. Those who take advantage of the health services in the country will see that Panama is an ideal place for medical tourism with highly trained physicians and hospitals” said Minister of Tourism of Panama and Director of the ATP, Solomon Shamah.

3) Turkey – Already a popular tourist destination thanks to its historic attractions, Turkey also boasts the highest number of Joint Commission International (JCI) accredited facilities anywhere in the world, outside the US.  The Turkish government also has a high level of quality assurance standards that their hospitals all must adhere to.  Cosmetic surgery, hair transplants, and eye surgeries are all popular medical procedures, according to Health Tourism Turkey.

4) Brazil – Although prices vary widely, Brazil is home to some of the best-known medical centers for plastic surgery.  It is home to the highest number of practicing cosmetic surgeons per capita in the world, and according to The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS), Brazil also reigns #3 in terms of countries with the most surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures (USA is #1).

If taking in beautiful views or catching some sun while seeking medical treatment sounds like a great idea, be sure to check the JCI (Joint Commission International) to ensure the hospital is accredited and therefor safe. Ensuring quality has been approved, even on your medical vacation, could save you from unnecessary trauma.

1 Comment
  • Arpita

    Macular degeneration
    treatments from Europe


    treatments for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are therapies that are in
    various stages of development but have not yet been approved by
    the FDA for use in the United States, though they might be available
    in other countries. In some cases, people in the U.S. can receive these
    treatments prior to FDA approval, especially if they are enrolled in a clinical
    trial helps determine safety and effectiveness of the medication, surgery or
    other therapy.

    Eylea and
    PDGFR-beta combination

    In January 2014,
    Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Bayer HealthCare announced an agreement to
    jointly develop an innovative antibody to the Platelet-Derived Growth Factor
    Receptor Beta (PDGFR-beta) as a potential combination therapy with
    Regeneron’s FDA-approved Eylea (aflibercept) injections for the
    treatment of wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD).

    According to the
    companies, preclinical data suggest that blocking PDGFR-beta as well as
    vascular endothelial growth (VEGF) can provide treatment advantages over
    inhibiting VEGF alone with Eylea or other FDA-approved treatments. Human
    clinical studies of the combination therapy are planned to begin in early 2014.


    Some eye doctors are
    using Avastin (bevacizumab), an FDA-approved cancer medication produced by
    Genentech, as an “Off Label” treatment for Macular Degeneration.
    (While Genentech markets Avastin for treatment of colorectal cancer, the
    company has announced it has no plans to place the drug in clinical trials for
    treatment of macular degeneration.)

    When used off label
    to treat AMD, Avastin, like FDA-approved macular degeneration drugs Macugen
    (Eyetech) and Lucentis (Genentech), is injected directly into the
    vitreous in the back of the eye.

    In all treatment
    groups in the study, at least 60 percent of patients attained visual acuity that met or exceeded the legal
    standard for driving vision (20/40 or better).

    Some eye care
    practitioners choose to use Avastin off label for AMD treatment, because costs
    to patients may be significantly lower than when using Lucentis, which received
    FDA approval as a macular degeneration treatment in 2006.


    Currently in early
    stage clinical trials, this novel treatment for “wet” AMD involves
    injections of a therapeutic antibody into the eye. Being developed by the
    biotechnology company Lpath, iSONEP (sphingomab) appears to target
    abnormal blood vessel growth in AMD as well as inflammation and excessive
    formation of fibrous tissue.

    In December 2010,
    Lpath announced it had granted Pfizer a global license for commercial
    development and future sales of the drug pending appropriate studies and
    regulatory approvals.

    “This study
    provides additional scientific evidence supporting our theory that restoring
    blood flow in the choroid will have a positive effect on preventing the
    progression of this terrible disease,” said MacuCLEAR CEO and President
    Philip G. Ralston Jr.


    Known as
    squalamine, the drug has demonstrated ability to prevent development of
    abnormal blood vessels that damage the eye in wet AMD. Company officials say
    the drug’s safety profile is a major advantage, and researchers are developing
    ways to enhance the drug’s properties.


    In June 2010,
    Oxigene announced encouraging preclinical data regarding development of its
    investigational Zybrestat treatment for wet AMD. Unlike other macular
    degeneration drugs, Zybrestat is being designed for topical use in the form of
    eye drops and could eliminate the need for eye injections. The company said
    it believes the topical formulation could be ready for clinical development in
    early 2011.

    In December 2011,
    the company presented encouraging data from a phase 2 study of Zybrestat for
    the treatment of polypoidal choroidal vasculopathy (PCV) — a potentially
    blinding eye disease that involves the growth of tiny, abnormal blood vessels
    under the retina. Oxigene’s CEO said Zybrestat or a similar topical compound
    might one day become a “major breakthrough in treating retinal
    diseases,” and that the company is seeking “a partner with strong
    expertise and experience in ophthalmic drug development to advance this
    promising clinical program.”

    Gene Therapy

    Research into gene therapy as a potential treatment for
    macular degeneration is in early stages. But investigators are searching for
    ways to introduce specially encoded genes that could alter processes causing
    macular degeneration.

    Stem Cells

    In what coul be a milestone for treatment of dry AMD,
    Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) received approval in the U.S. and Europe in 2011
    to begin clinical trials to investigate the safety and effectiveness of using
    retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells derived from human embryonic stem cells
    for the treatment of dry macular degeneration.

    In January 2012, ACT announced the first patient in Europe
    received the treatment, and the following month the company announced three
    patient in the U.S. had been treated. Three trials will be conducted in the
    U.S. and Europe, with 12 patients enrolled in each trial. Preliminary results
    are expected in early 2013.

    In February 2012, another company, StemCells Inc.,
    announced it will begin FDA-approved phase 1/2 clinical trials to evaluate the
    safety and preliminary effectiveness of the company’s purified human neural
    stem cell treatment for dry AMD.

    The company plans to enroll 16
    patients and the stem cells will be administered by a single injection into the
    space beneath the retina. Patients will be examined at
    predetermined intervals over 1 year and then will be followed for an additional
    4 years in a separate observational study.

    For more information please visit-

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