Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Health Care Globalization and Patients Without Borders

The term 'globalization' is nothing new. According to Wikipedia, "globalization describes an ongoing process by which regional economies, societies, and cultures have become integrated through a globe-spanning network of communication and trade. The term is sometimes used to refer specifically to economic globalization: the integration of national economies into the international economy through trade, foreign direct investment, capital flows, migration, and the spread of technology." Globalization certainly has its benefits, but it has its victims too, and the results can be deadly. As the global economy knits countries closer together, it becomes easier for diseases to spread through states, over borders and across oceans.

Globalization has impact on the medicines we take (many of them are manufactured outside of a specific country) and the conduct of the clinical trials (the clinical trial data are cross borders from multiple nations). Last year, when I attended the FDA/Industry Statistical Workshop, the theme of the workshop is 'global harmonization' - another way to say 'globalization'.

Recently I attended a conference in Duke, the focus again was 'globalization' with emphasis on Asia. One session discussed the tourism medicine and 'patients without borders'. It will be trend that with globalization, patients can cross border to choose the health care that will better service them (with cost and quality of care in mind). One day, we could share the health care resources much like the sharing of the technologies.

I also understand that the sharing of the health care resource will not be an easy task. Several days ago, one of my American colleagues asked me if it is possible for foreigners to have renal (kidney) transplantation in China (for obvious reason of the shortage in kidney donors). When I posted the question to my alumni email list, I immediately got some response such as the one below "I believe that all Chinese with renal failure have the absolute right for having kidney transplant in China. As a Chinese, I strongly against any give away of basic human right..."  I sort of agree with this. The world is not ready to share the health care resource (at least the organs for transplant).

Within the country, there may or may not be any policy or procedure to ensure the fairness between the rich and the poor, not to mention the fairness across countries.

China actually has its policies on organ transplantation including renal
(kidney) transplantation.The policies basically prohibit the tourism medical treatment in China for organ transplantation.

卫生部办公厅关于境外人员申请人体器官移植有关问题的通知 (General Office of the Ministry of Health personnel for human organ transplants outside the Issues)

人体器官移植条例 (Human Organ Transplant Ordinance)

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