Stem cell banking is one of the fastest growing sectors in medical technology in India today. Though it is a relatively new field in the country, cord blood banking and stem cell banking are catching on in a big way, even in India’s Tier II towns and cities.
Doctors are also doing their bit to educate patients about the advantages of stem cell banking. Increased awareness about the sector, coupled with information in the mass media, is also spurring many expectant couples to sign up to bank and store their new baby’s stem cells and cord blood.
Excellent practices in India
Advanced medical technology, comparatively lower costs and easy payment options are all combining to make India a competitive market for stem cell banking. The country is home to premium cord blood banks, which are not only proficient in storage techniques; they also tie up with hospitals and clinics (which may do the actual collection of cord blood) to make the entire process easy for customers.
India is also one of the top destinations in the world for medical tourism, with many foreigners making their way to the country for surgeries and treatments. Stem cell banking is a viable option for many foreign nationals, who find the procedure easy and affordable in India.
Worldwide, there are about 170 cord blood banks in different parts of the world, but this number is set to go up dramatically up to year 2017. India is poised to share a small but vital part of this pie; the penetration rate of cord blood banks (both State-supported and private) is still just about 5% in India, as also in countries such as China and some countries of Europe. However, the market reach is expected to double in the next five years, with the Government expecting to streamline regulatory approvals for cord blood banking and regulations for private stem cell banks.
Easier processes in India, cheaper costs
Initial costs of sourcing and banking cord blood and stem cells may seem high to a lot of potential customers – it may be as high as Rs 1,00,000 at some banks. Parents can bank their child’s cord blood for a period of 21 years – a contract is signed with the blood bank stipulating all conditions – and they can use it when their child is suffering from a serious disease and needs stem cells for a cure.
Parents are banking their children’s stem cells as insurance against future diseases; since stem cells are able to regenerate, they have major implications in the curing of several genetic and auto-immune diseases and disorders. However, a new trend to emerge is that if parents find that their children are healthy, they are terminating their contracts with the cord blood banks mid-way. The collected cord blood may then be donated or discarded, depending on what the parents desire.
India is one of the few countries in the world whose private cord blood banks offer an EMI option for parents. The costs of stem cell banking can become prohibitive for parents, coming as it does right on the heels of expenses incurred for delivery of the baby in hospital. The costs also go up because most of the equipment used in blood banks for storage and procurement is imported even today, and there are high taxes and import duties on the same.
However, many major cord blood banks in India are offering parents the option of paying the money in monthly instalments. With the payment becoming extremely easy, more and more parents are able to bank their child’s cord blood and stem cells for future use.
*Statistics quoted in the report are sourced from ‘Indian Stem Cell Banking Market: Trends & Opportunities (2012-2017)’.