More on Stem Cell Technology and the Rise of Medical Tourism

To follow on from a recent post on medical tourism for stem cell therapies, I though I'd note the pace of development in Asia. The medical industry in countries like India, Malaysia, Vietnam, and so forth is in many ways more energetic than in the West. It is certainly less burdened by regulation, and that makes all the difference in the long run. For so long as it costs less to achieve the same goals, the level of growth will be greater, and that difference will compound year after year. Heavy regulation and socialist command and control systems such as those that shackle medicine in the US will always ensure that a region becomes backwards and poor in the fullness of time. It will be overtaken by competing regions, and the bulk of new investment will go elsewhere.

We can see aspects of this process happening now in the field of stem cell research. The real action in terms of foundational growth and application of new science is taking place outside America and Western Europe. Absent large changes in the tenor and breadth of medical regulation in the US, the future of your health will be found in Asia, because that will be where the safe, reliable, low cost therapies exist.

A couple of articles I noticed recently are illustrative of the infrastructural development taking place in that region of the world:

Miracles of Science in Regenerative Medicine

The Manipal Institute of Regenerative Medicine (MIRM), a new initiative of Manipal University, has been created to transform stem cell science into reality by bringing together a group of outstanding scientists and providing them with an exceptional research environment. India is identified as one of the forerunners in stem cell research and MIRM is the first academic Institute in India to impart focused training in stem cell biology.

ISSL to invest Rs 50 cr to set up stem cell speciality hospitals in metros

International Stemcell Services Limited (ISSL) which is engaged in stem cell clinical application and banking services is planning an investment to the tune of Rs 50 crore. The funds will be utilized to establish dedicated stem cell speciality hospitals in major cities and open up Departments of Regenerative Medicine in existing hospitals. The company would chip in a portion of the funds from its internal accruals and the remaining will be raised through financial institutions. Presently, ISSL has a opened a facility at the St Theresa’s Hospital, Bangalore which is equipped with a Philips endura C-arm for transplantation of stem cells. Its Mumbai centre is a class 10,000 cGMP facility, which caters to the western parts of the country.

Pahang going ahead with stem cell research hub

The Pahang government [in Malaysia] will proceed with plans to set up a stem cell research hub despite questions being raised on the effectiveness of stem cell treatment, Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob said. Adnan said the state government was aware of questions being raised both here and abroad over the authenticity of claims that stem cells could be used to cure a number of ailments. He said some quarters felt that more research should be carried out to determine if the treatment actually worked but he noted that many individuals claimed that their condition had improved following such treatment.

This sort of thing will continue, and the pace will pick up.


How does the writer intend to quote an article from 2006 as indication, and presumably proof, that there are 'shackles' holding back medicine in the US or the West today? Throwing around words like 'socialism' and 'libertarianism' is a wonderful way to gain following by readers under-informed about economic theory and highly polarized from the 24hr news cycle, but I would argue it's also good way to water down the validity of the authors points.

If you're not certain of the definition of those words, then I would avoid using them.

For singularitarians, it shouldn't be a surprise that we see groundbreaking medical research going on in places outside of the Western world. It's arguably good to see other nations developing technologies for the rest of the world, as it encourages meaningful competition in the highly monopolized economies of the West. An example of why that makes sense is evidenced by the way Western success has interested the governments of Asia in competing with the Western-bloc.

Those Asian countries (India, Vietnam, Malaysia) have long been (literally) 'shackled' by the extraction-economies historically imposed to them by the British and French colonial powers. Economies which were vibrant and not underdeveloped before the arrival of European powers. It was those extraction economies which enabled the West to grow at a much faster pace than the rest of the world. A double edged sword of success; crippling your competition, while profiting from the cheap natural resources you're industries are exporting from their land.

Today, those Asian economies are getting back on their feet. After triumphing over colonialism and the behavior of international bankers for the last 150 years, these people are beginning to contribute in a meaningful way rather than just exploiting their land and their youth for imperial or corporate interests.

Rather than pointing a Macarthian Shouting Stick @ so-called Socialist Western governments and throwing around loaded terms like 'socialism,' the author could consider articulating the claims that he's making and not letting readers decide for themselves what is meant by "socialist command and control systems such as those that shackle medicine in the US." It should be noted that the article that link refers to barely mentions the US and almost exclusively deals with European governments (which heavily subsidize *private* medical research... and wouldn't be described as socialism by an educated social scientist).

I challenge the author to offer a real critique of mixed economies (or classical economies, either way) if he's going to write disparaging and unfounded claims about their effects. Otherwise, he would be best off writing as an impartial journalist and not a pundit.

There is an abundance of good information on this blog, it's a shame that so much of it is tainted with what comes across as just parroted neoliberal economic theory. Which, I suspect, is not what you would have expected me to accusing you of parroting.



Posted by: David V. at March 18th, 2010 4:20 PM
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