On January 5, Hep posted Cheryl Reitz’s first article about Indian generics. Click here to read it. The following excerpt is from her second article, originally published in the HepC Bull, January 2016.

BACKGROUND: I recently found myself in a really great hospital during my visit to see my son who is currently working in Pune, India. I’d been overcome by toxic traffic fumes and developed some scary symptoms, so my son had me taken to his small local hospital. Due to the complexity of my symptoms, they decided to transfer me via ambulance to a larger hospital, the Ruby Hall Wanowrie Clinic. Over the next 48 hours, I went through Ruby Hall Wanowrie’s Emergency, ICU, and general wards, and had several major tests, as they wanted to rule out stroke and heart attack as the cause of my symptoms. I was treated incredibly well; the food (five small meals a day) was great, and the medical staff was caring and knowledgeable. In most cases, their English was excellent. The total cost of the two days in a private room with TV and WIFI, including physician’s fees, IV and oral drugs, blood panel, and tests including ECG, lung X-Rays, Doppler, and stress test, was 22,729 rupees (approximately $475 CAD/$336 USD).

MEDICAL TOURISM: After this positive experience, I was curious if HCV+ North Americans could travel to India to get low-cost treatment with generic drugs. I asked my Indian doctor if this was an option; she informed me this hospital actually specializes in medical tourism.

Philosophically, I am completely against the concept of medical tourism for hepatitis C. As a patient advocate, I want to see policies and laws which make hepatitis C treatment accessible (which includes “affordable”) to everyone who needs it, and am doing everything within my power to make this happen. Medical tourism is an option only to those fortunate few who can afford the time off work, the plane ticket, the cost of living away from home during treatment, the upfront cost of treatment, and have a passport. With these resources, they can take advantage of the prices available to those in low-income countries; in the case of hepatitis C treatment, the price in India is approximately 1 to 2 percent of what it costs in North America. That said, I also realize this is one more option that could save someone’s life, so here we go…just remember medical tourism is not an option for most people, but simply a possible band-aid for a privileged few who are unable to access treatment locally at this time and have sufficient resources to pursue this course. Bearing all this in mind, patients who would benefit most from Indian medical tourism would be those who do not qualify for the most recent DAA treatments through their health insurance, such as those with too low (or possibly too high) a degree of fibrosis/cirrhosis, a non-covered genotype, or a disqualifying treatment history. Living donor liver transplant (from an accompanying family member) could possibly be considered in unusual cases.

POTENTIAL SERVICES: On November 25, 2015, I met with three hospital administrators to discuss medical tourism at Ruby Hall Clinic. Their two facilities in Pune each specialize in different types of medical tourism. Their Medical Tourism Department has been in operation since 2009, and the President of India presented them with India’s “National Award for Medical Tourism” in 2012. At present, people come there regularly for care in these major areas: cancer, cardiac and heart surgery, knee and hip replacements, plastic surgery and implants, and of course transplants (live, not cadaver), particularly kidney, bone marrow and occasionally liver; live donors from patients’ families are brought over for these procedures.

To read “Medical Tourism in India” in it’s entirety, including Cheryl’s suggestion, pricing and contact information visit http://hepcbc.ca. This article originally appeared in the January 2016 hepC.bull monthly newsletter at HepCBC; permission to reprint granted