My son has a health condition, and his treatments don't seem to be working
very well. I read about a new, promising treatment that might help, but it's only
available in another country. Should we go there for treatment?
When your child is sick or has special medical needs, it's natural to want to help
in any way that you can. After all, you want your child to get the best treatment
possible. But taking a chance on an unproven treatment or therapy that hasn't been
studied here in the United States could do more harm than good.
Other countries don't have the same health care laws and regulations that we have
here. There also can be problems with communication if you don't speak the language,
and this can lead to misunderstandings and mistakes. Doctors from other countries
also might have trouble getting your child's medical history to make sure that
a treatment will be safe. There's also a chance that your health insurance might not
help pay for treatments given in other countries.
Then there's the harm that might come to your son from getting a treatment that
hasn't been strictly regulated or closely monitored in the U.S. or the other country.
Possible dangers include:
getting counterfeit or poor quality medicines
getting injections with needles that might be reused and contaminated
If you're unhappy with your son's current treatment, tell
your doctor. If you have already spoken to the doctor but feel like more can be
done, consider getting a second opinion (speaking with a different doctor about your
son's health condition).
Another option might be to enroll your child in a clinical
trial if a suitable one is available in the U.S. Clinical trials study possible
new treatments or therapies. For a treatment to reach the trial stage, there
has to be some reason to believe that it will work.
In a clinical trial, some patients get the new treatment, others get the usual
treatment, and less commonly, some might get a placebo (a fake treatment or sugar
pill that contains no medicine at all). Then, doctors compare outcomes. If your son
is in a trial, you probably will not know which treatment he gets.
Your doctor will recommend a clinical trial if he or she thinks your son is
eligible. Then, the trial doctors will decide if your child is a good fit for the
study. If he is eligible, learn as much as you can about the trial and the treatment
being studied. Consider the benefits and the possible risks so that you can make the
best decision for your child.
For a list of clinical trials that your son might be eligible for in the U.S.,
visit the federal government's clinical trials