Saturday January 18, 2020
Home USA Dubious Care ...

Dubious Care And Big Bucks By GoFundMe: Study

The American Cancer Society's deputy chief medical officer, said it's important to consider what may drive some patients to turn to unproven remedies.

0
//
cancer, cellphone, U.S.
A radiologist examines the brain X-rays of a patient. In a small study, patients with brain tumors were given genetically modified poliovirus, which helped their bodies attack the cancer. VOA

People seeking dubious, potentially harmful treatment for cancer and other ailments raised nearly $7 million over two years from crowdfunding sites, a study found.

Echoing recent research on campaigns for stem cell therapies, the findings raise more questions about an increasingly popular way to help pay for costly, and sometimes unproven, medical care.

Soliciting money on GoFundMe and other sites eliminates doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and other “gatekeepers” that can be a barrier to expensive treatment, said lead author Dr. Ford Vox, an ethicist and brain injury expert at Shepherd Center rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta. He calls it “the democratization of economic power through social media” but says it can pose an ethical dilemma.

Online fundraising “has a big bright side” when it helps patients pay for legitimate care, he said. “Communities are really being able to rally around people in rough times. That’s fantastic, but there is this very clear dark side” when treatments sought are worthless or even dangerous.

Breast Cancer
This undated fluorescence-colored microscope image made available by the National Institutes of Health in September 2016 shows a culture of human breast cancer cells. For the first time, one of the new immunotherapy drugs has shown promise against breast cancer in a large study that combined it with chemotherapy to treat an aggressive form of the disease. VOA

His study was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

GoFundMe says campaigns for medical care are increasing and are among the most numerous on its site. They include solicitations for conventional treatment and for unproven alternative therapies.

“We always encourage people to fully research whatever it is they are raising money for and to be absolutely transparent on their GoFundMe page, so donors can make an informed decision on what they’re donating to,” GoFundMe said in an emailed statement.

The researchers examined campaigns posted from November 2015 through mid-December 2017, mostly on GoFundMe. They focused on five treatments sought in about 1,000 campaigns: homeopathy or naturopathy for cancer; hyperbaric oxygen for brain injuries; stem cells for brain or spinal cord injuries; and long-term antibiotics for persistent Lyme disease.

 

Cancers
Women receive cancer treatment at The National Oncology Center in Sanaa, Yemen. VOA

 

While some patients swear they’ve benefited from some of the treatments, there is no rigorous scientific evidence that any of them work for the conditions involved, the researchers said.

The most numerous were solicitations for homeopathy or naturopathy for cancer — 474 requests seeking more than $12 million. About one-quarter of that was raised.

Homeopathic products typically contain heavily diluted drugs, vitamins or minerals said to promote healing, although some have been found to contain toxic amounts. Naturopathy, another alternative medicine practice, sometimes uses homeopathic products, herbs and dietary supplements or body cleanses.

Michelle Drapeau has raised about $7,000 on GoFundMe for homeopathy and other alternative remedies since being diagnosed with advanced stomach cancer in February 2017. The 45-year-old investment banker from West Palm Beach, Florida, credits them with keeping her alive since she stopped chemotherapy over a year ago.

Cancer patient
Cancer patient, flickr

“I wanted to make sure I explored every and all options,” Drapeau said. “It’s vital for everyone to have that opportunity.”

Dr. Leonard Lichtenfeld, the American Cancer Society’s deputy chief medical officer, said it’s important to consider what may drive some patients to turn to unproven remedies. U.S. health care costs are exorbitant and many patients run out of money trying to pay them.

And despite considerable progress against cancer and other illnesses, conventional treatment can’t cure every patient, he noted.

“We should not be judgmental and come out and say this is terrible,” Lichtenfeld said.

Also Read: Nature Gives You A Major Boost In Improving Your Mental Health

“No one wants to hear, ‘You have cancer,’ and especially no one wants to hear that there’s no treatment available that can help you,” he said. “You begin to understand why people may turn to unproven treatments and you can understand why others reach out to try to support them.

“What we need to do is to better inform, even better care for our patients and their families, so they don’t feel this is what they need to do.” (VOA)

Next Story

Here’s How Fitbit Smartwatch May Help You Predict Flu in Real-Time

The authors identify several limitations in their study

0
Fitbit
Resting heart rate tends to spike during infectious episodes and this is captured by wearable devices such as Fitbit smartwatches and fitness trackers that track heart rate. Pixabay

In a first-ever study on wearable devices to improve surveillance of infectious disease, researchers in the US have achieved real-time flu prediction in five states, using resting heart rate and sleep tracking data from Fitbit users.

Resting heart rate tends to spike during infectious episodes and this is captured by wearable devices such as smartwatches and fitness trackers that track heart rate.

Influenza results in 650,000 deaths worldwide annually. And approximately 7 per cent of working adults and 20 per cent of children aged under five years get flu each year.

“Responding more quickly to influenza outbreaks can prevent further spread and infection, and we were curious to see if sensor data could improve real-time surveillance at the state level,” said study author Dr Jennifer Radin from Scripps Research Translational Institute.

The researchers reviewed de-identified data from 200,000 users who wore a Fitbit wearable device that tracks users’ activity, heart rate and sleep for at least 60 days during the study time.

fitbit
In a first-ever study on wearable devices to improve surveillance of infectious disease, researchers in the US have achieved real-time flu prediction in five states, using resting heart rate and sleep tracking data from Fitbit users. Pixabay

From the 200,000, 47,248 users from California, Texas, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania wore a Fitbit device consistently during the study period, resulting in a total of 13,342,651 daily measurements evaluated.

The average user was 43 years old and 60 per cent were female.

De-identified data from the users retrospectively identified weeks with elevated resting heart rate and changes to routine sleep, said the research published in The Lancet Digital Health journal.

“In the future as these devices improve, and with access to 24/7 real-time data, it may be possible to identify rates of influenza on a daily instead of weekly basis,” said Radin.

This data was compared to weekly estimates for influenza-like illness rates reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

This is the first time heart rate trackers and sleep data have been used to predict flu, or any infectious disease, in real-time.

With greater volumes of data it may be possible to apply the method to more geographically refined areas, such as county or city-level.

The authors identify several limitations in their study.

Weekly resting heart rate averages may include days when an individual is both sick and not sick, and this may result in underestimation of illness by lowering the weekly averages.

Fitbit
This is the first time heart rate trackers and sleep data have been used to predict flu, or any infectious disease, in real-time. Pixabay

Other factors may also increase resting heart rate, including stress or other infections.

ALSO READ: Most Advanced Radiation Therapy For Cancer Patients Arrives in India

Lastly, the authors noted that previous studies of sleep measuring devices have been found to have low accuracy, though they said that accuracy will continue to improve as technology evolves. (IANS)