FEBRUARY 18, 2013Patients from all over the world are travelling to Latvia to seek cancer treatment, and a recently set up health tourism organization aims to make this country better known.

The tiny country of Latvia is at the forefront of one of the latest cancer treatments that is attracting patients from all over the world. Latvian scientist Aina Muceniece developed the medicine Rigvir.Over the years several clinical trials were conducted that proved the safety and effectiveness of Rigvir in stage four cancer patients. Following the collapse of the former Soviet Union the testing and use in treatment of Rigvir stopped for a few years, but its effectiveness in the treatment of several kinds of cancer, from prostate to bladder, colon, melanoma and lung cancer, had been proven. In 2002 the work began again and since 2005 Rigvir has been used in treatment in hospitals and available in pharmacies all over Latvia. Rigvir activates and normalises the immune system of the patient and is well tolerated and safe.

Aina Muceniece’s daughter now heads Latvian Virotherapy Centre that aims to promote virotherapy and the training of doctors to use the medication. Rigvir has been accepted as treatment for melanoma patients by insurance companies since 2011.

As Rigvir proved to be more and more successful and interest from patients all over the world grew, the Latvian Virotherapy Centre was established to provide treatment and support for those patients. The Virotherapy Centre has developed a programme to ensure treatment is as comfortable as possible. When a new patient seeks the help of the centre the first consultation is done by phone or email and a complete assessment of the medical records and tests is conducted when the patient is still in their home country. The clinic then takes care of all the travel, accommodation and medical arrangements for the patient and makes sure that any additional screening and tests are organised to take place in the Latvian hospital. A full treatment plan and follow up is created by the doctors of the clinic after which the treatment starts. The first round of treatment takes place when the patient is in Latvia, but the follow-up treatments can normally take place when the patient is back at home in their own country. The arrangements to deliver Rigvir to the patients are handled by the clinic as well.

A Latvian health tourism group has been formed with the aim of developing health tourism to Latvia and attracting foreign customers to Latvian health tourism service providers. The yet to be named group includes a wide spectrum of health tourism entrepreneurs, ranging from surgical, medical rehabilitation, resort rehabilitation, health restoration, spa and wellness, to the organic cosmetic industry and higher medical education institutions. Work has begun on the single united Latvian health tourism website. During 2012 group members started to promote the country at marketing events and health tourism conferences and seminars in Russia, Israel and Northern Europe.

Jurmala City Council in collaboration with the Latvian Resorts Association has developed a health tourism strategy for up to 2020 and helped to establish the Latvian health tourism group. Jurmala is the largest resort city in the Baltic States, home to mud bathing and mineral waters.

It will work in six key areas:
– Implementation of joint health tourism marketing activities.
– Promoting the expansion of export markets.
Developing new and innovative health tourism export products.
– Promoting cooperation between group members in the provision of services.
– Developing health tourism packages.
– Working on industry friendly regulation.

The aim is to increase the number of medical, wellness and spa tourists to Latvia and develop the local health tourism industry. Latvia is already seeing an increase in the number of medical and wellness tourists due to competitive prices and high service quality.