Saudi Arabia/World: Who Has the Right to Life?

 

I am still disturbed by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decision to take away my lifeline, Avastin.  Avastin is the drug which I have been receiving every two weeks via an infusion since I was diagnosed as having Stage IV breast cancer.  As of this writing I still do not know whether I will receive my next scheduled infusion on 29 December or if I am fortunate to receive it, whether its costs will be covered by insurance.

Isn’t it ironic that while many in the world and especially from Saudi Arabia choose to come to the United States for medical treatment, many Stage IV breast cancer patients may now have to seek alternative venues in order to receive the life prolonging treatment of Avastin?  Avastin may have been disproved by the US FDA but remains an approved medication in Europe, Canada AND even Saudi Arabia.

I always talk about contrasts and contradictions but what kind of a contrast and contradiction is this?  Who gave the US FDA the right to determine life?  Or the right to determine whether a person can have a prolonged life…

This brings up the topic on whether Saudi Arabia may become a venue for medical tourism.  Think about it…. The primary hospitals, both public and private in the Kingdom, have numerous professionals from not only Saudi Arabia but America, Canada, Great Britain, Australia and so many other countries.  At the private hospitals the care and the facilities are plush and comfortable yet at a fraction of the cost one would pay in the United States.  I have found hospitals in Saudi Arabia to be very accommodating for patients and visitors.  Drugs and regimes that one can not receive in the United States, such as Avastin, are available in Saudi Arabia.

Concurrently Saudi Arabia has been building up its tourist industry and the infrastructure to support tourism.  Why not include medical tourism in the equation?  Jeddah or Damman could be lovely places in which to receive treatments with the soothing and scenic background of the Red Sea.  Riyadh has its own charms and allure where one could receive care in one of the fastest growing and economically strong capital cities in the world.

Medical tourism would provide the Kingdom with an exceptional opportunity for bridging the gap and rebuilding the bridge between East and West.  Saudi Arabia is known as the Kingdom of Humanity so why not branch out to medical tourism?

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25 Responses

  1. Carol,

    this is most disturbing news. What will you do if your medications are stopped? Is returning to Saudi Arabia an option?

  2. First, wonderful new about your grand baby, Carol. So precious they are.

    The very medication you are in need of and now banned, of course is disturbing. I keep you in my prayers, Carol.

    Please keep us informed with updates and your options.

    Would you, could you, do you even want to go back to Saudi Arabia even if this medication was not an issue for you?

    If this is your only option…receiving the medication in Saudi…for you, can it be arranged?

  3. Aisha’s mum, No Saudi Arabia does not allow anybody to enter unless it is on a religious visa or because they can use them to work or if they are married (with approval) and of course only as long as you are useful. Any woman married to a Saudi man who is divorced or widowed and does not have Saudi citizenship will have to leave the country, unless she finds work and/or another Saudi sponsor immediately. If not she will be thrown out without her children as they are property of the man’s family.
    A foreign man cannot even enter the country under sponsorship of his Saudi wife, he needs a job or something in Saudi to be allowed in.

    As soon as your usefulness ends you will be expected to leave asap. While it is true that Carol was married to a Saudi citizen, he is dead now and I would be very surprised if the Saudi Government would even allow her back into Saudi, or would lift a finger to help her, let alone give her medical treatment.

  4. I understand the need to control access to antibiotics but I wonder why the need to control access to medicines like these to adults who understand the risks? I am sure it is all about the money.

  5. They should have nedical tourism. The US too bearucratic, adversly affecting the health of others. Both doctors and patients seem to be losing out to those in power.( Private insurance or public healthcare)
    My big beef is the ‘prexisting condition’. Most medical conditions are ‘prexisting’.
    Maybe the US will learn that if more places start to have medical tourism, the US will see where they faultered.

  6. Medical tourism already exists as a big industry in many countries. India, China, Thailand, Turkey, Lebanon, Costa Rica, Panama, etc. Just to name a few. These countries have advantages of specialists and nurses along with the infrastructure for existing tourism. Low cost countries like India and Thailand have attracted large investments in hospitals specifically for that purpose. As a matter of fact India is a health tourism destination for Saudis now.

    Saudi does not have enough Doctors or nurses to start an industry in this area. Saudi can do well by investing some of the petro dollars outside in countries like India instead of trying to import everything and start from scratch.

    @Carol,

    My understanding is that the implementation of the new rule may take some time and existing patients using the drug may not be impacted immediately. I am hoping that there will be some sort of grandfather ruling allowing you to continue using Avastin. Keep fighting. We all admire your spirit!!

  7. Carol, if health care is so wonderful in KSA why do so many leave to obtain it elsewhere including the King?

  8. in the ME, medical tourism is big in jordan, so to compete SA has ready made competition.
    For medical tourism to flourish, visa restrictions have to be eased and also the fact that saudi requires a male guardian, there are plenty of women only med tourists , what on earth would they do?

    If saudi eases it’s visa policy a bit and also lifts the guardian and segregation/covering rul for medical tourists i’d say t has the infrastructure,knowledge and expertise to lure in medical tourists and do very well.. but will it?

  9. @Aafke – Your comments about Saudi Arabia and its willingness to help are way too harsh! It should also be clarified that it is not quite as dark as you have painted for a widow to return to Saudi Arabia for a visit! For example, in my own case, I have a stepson and brother-in-law(s) who can be my mahrem/sponsor.

    Jerry – you hit the nail on the head in my view. Much of the withdrawal of Avastin is about money. There was a recent editorial in the New York Times which made my blood broil which was probably written by someone who has had no exposure to anyone experiencing metasticized breast cancer with no other option if Avastin is removed from the marketplace. We in the US now not only have to be afraid of insurance companies and what they may or may not do, but also have the FDA playing God.

    @MoQ – yes; there -may- be a possibility to be grandfathered but that also will depend on individual insurance companies too. I am on a state program so the odds are high that it will abide by governmental recommendations such as that of the FDA.

    If Avastin is taken away then I will need to go back on traditional chemotherapy and the resulting side effects thereby taking away the quality and “normalcy” of life now available to me because of Avastin.

    I know that I am not alone in that Avastin has been working for me. It seems to me that if a drug does work for some then why take it away? Additionally, the side effects are known and therefore a patient is monitored and watched closely which is more than can be said with other drugs and procedures.

    It’s pretty emotional for me so I better stop now. I believe my point on the issue is pretty clear.

  10. Carol, billions are spent by Saudi’s going to other countries for treatment because they just do not want to wait for treatment or the specialists is not here in the country.

    The Saudi’s citizens spend billions every year in going abroad for surgeries and treatments. However, King Abdullah and Dr. Rabiah the Minister of Health are going all out to get more hospitals, equipment and programs in place to reduce this flow of people.

    I have personally exposed the kingdom to medical holograms used in America by surgeons to see all parts of the body where they will be operating to avoid mistakes and plan properly , a new software program developed by the doctor who made CT scans possible and now he has a program that finds colon cancer tumors, added in now according to the National Inistitute of Health in America is that it can be used to screen for lung cancer. Just these simple screening plans can help defeat two forms of cancer by finding it early. Working with doctors I know on a personal basis I find out what works and people in the kingdom or kind enough to listen and make a decision if it will work for them or not to help save lives. Being able to help your fellow humans is something we all need to do.

    Developing drugs that work on various forms of cancer takes years of work by various people and it must be perfect for the masses which makes it even tougher. I know one chemist who ran around collecting dogs and cats that had cancer to see if any of his formulars would cure their cancer. Trial after trial after trial and he is still at it after 22 years.

    We can all hope that all the forms of cancer will be discovered with the DNA work and a method of curing it thereafter.

  11. Carol, I still would like to know why KSA should have medical tourism when anyone living in KSA who is able to get out for medical treatment gets out.

  12. MoQ is correct medical tourism in Thailand is HUGE it’s almost as bit as prostitution there (the biggest industry honestly). Carol – appeal, appeal, appeal! Let me know if you need help I know the crafty tricks to “scam” medicaid/medicare. Whatever you do DO NOT LET THEM GET AWAY WITH THIS. Tell them you’ll talk to your congressmen, you send notes to the Prez, you’ll send notes to EVERY PERSON THRU THIS BLOG to go down to the FDA to complain. I have NEVER wanted my government to play God. It’s too invasive as is.

    Jerry

    The “pre-existing” condition has gone bye bye with the dodo bird as of the HCR law. Well if you are under 19.

  13. @Wendy,

    Many Saudis will choose to receive medical treatment outside of KSA for specialty care at places known world over for aggressive cancers, heart, kidney, etc. However for traditional basic care the Kingdom is very good. At the same time with costs increasing in the US for even the most basic of services coupled with decreased insurance coverage, then the Kingdom (and other places) can be viable options where one will receive competent care at more affordable prices.

    @Onigiri,

    I’ve written to both the FDA and NY Times expressing my views of the FDA decision. I received notification from the NY Times that they are considering publishing my letter. Let’s hope so as it is important for patient’s words to be heard.

    I am certainly open to additional venues to bring further attention to the FDA’s bad judgement.

  14. “the agency announced it would withdraw approval for Avastin “after reviewing the results of four clinical studies of Avastin in women with breast cancer.”

    “The data indicate that the drug does not prolong overall survival in breast cancer patients,” the announcement said, “or provide a sufficient benefit in slowing disease progression to outweigh the significant risk to patients.”

    I think it would be a good idea to track down those four trials, and see what the figures actually show. You might need help from an expert on statistics, if that is not your subject.

    It is possible that the drug does benefit a small minority of patients, while having no effect on the majority. People vary, cancers vary.

  15. Carol, billions are spent by Saudi’s going to other countries for treatment because they just do not want to wait for treatment or the specialists is not here in the country. The Saudi’s citizens spend billions every year in going abroad for surgeries and treatments. However, King Abdullah and Dr. Rabiah the Minister of Health are going all out to get more hospitals, equipment and programs in place to reduce this flow of people. I have personally exposed the kingdom to medical holograms used in America by surgeons to see all parts of the body where they will be operating to avoid mistakes and plan properly , a new software program developed by the doctor who made CT scans possible and now he has a program that finds colon cancer tumors, added in now according to the National Inistitute of Health in America is that it can be used to screen for lung cancer. Just these simple screening plans can help defeat two forms of cancer by finding it early. Working with doctors I know on a personal basis I find out what works and people in the kingdom or kind enough to listen and make a decision if it will work for them or not to help save lives. Being able to help your fellow humans is something we all need to do. Developing drugs that work on various forms of cancer takes years of work by various people and it must be perfect for the masses which makes it even tougher. I know one chemist who ran around collecting dogs and cats that had cancer to see if any of his formulars would cure their cancer. Trial after trial after trial and he is still at it after 22 years. We can all hope that all the forms of cancer will be discovered with the DNA work and a method of curing it thereafter.

  16. @Carol

    Good! When I have a chance I will also be sending out a letter via all the social media (twitter, fb, tumblr) that I am part of because the FDA is NOT God. The should NOT be playing life or death with people especially when that decision is based on a study of FOUR women. WTH?????? How many American women with stage four cancer are living in the US? Are they insane or did someone pay them a lot of money to take this off the market. (That’s my bet) And people wonder why I was against the public option for health care. Heh.

  17. Gene and Roseanne Smith have the exact same comments…hmmm.

  18. “The should NOT be playing life or death with people especially when that decision is based on a study of FOUR women. WTH?????? ”

    Ummm, that would be 4 studies not 4 women. Clinical trials are not conducted using only 4 participants. Ever.

  19. Ha ha!…who can’t seem to read with comprehension NOW! 🙂 thanks for the giggles.

  20. Ignorant gits should realize there is something called TYPOS! *roll eyes* I really hope the git isn’t going to be following me around this entire blog making snide comments. perhaps she should I don’t know go work?

  21. Salaam alaikhoum all. Obviously the main line of this entry is medical, but I would be interested to know about the “Saudi Arabia is building up its tourism infrastructure” bit. What are they going to try to tempt tourists? I see there has been several “visa” comments also. Have any changes already been made? I not also there has been a comment on women travellers with regard to medical/other tourism also. I think the government may also need a sea-change in their attitudes to women. When my moroccan freind and her husband performed their hajj a few years back (in a properly organised group) the group was stuck on their coach for some time until “higher authority consultations were made”. The reason, the group was led by two women (who had led about four other hajj groups over a period of eight years without problem, so they knew what they were doing), rather than a man! Maasalaama, Amelia

  22. @ amelia – I hope Carol will make a post about this subject as it is darn near impossible to get into the country even on a family Visa. KSA doesn’t want tourists it seems and I think the reasons would be obvious. Apart from diving tours in and around Jeddah does tourism actually exist outside of a small web site?

  23. Thanks for the reminder. I will have to do an updated post on tourism in the Kingdom. It is happening though not widely yet. Stay tuned.

  24. […] long as the FDA’s vote to remove Avastin for use with metastatic breast cancer patients gets overturned, I will continue to receive […]

  25. Can someone please get me more details on the availability and prices for Avastin eye injection in jeddah, saudi arabia?

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