Do doctors recommend crowdfunding

US doctors warn against crowdfunding for controversial therapies

Washington - US researchers are sounding the alarm: In the USA and Canada alone, they say that patients collect millions of dollars annually for useless and sometimes even dangerous therapies through crowdfunding. "At best, it's money thrown out; at worst, it's causing serious damage," they warn in an article that has now appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Between 2015 and 2017, more than a thousand such online donation campaigns raised the equivalent of almost six million euros ($ 6.8 million), the researchers report. The calls for donations were supposed to reach sums of a few hundred euros up to more than 350,000 euros, but the maximum sums were seldom achieved.

For their investigation, the researchers limited themselves to four crowdfunding platforms and five controversial treatment methods: naturopathy or homeopathy for cancer, hyperbaric oxygen therapy for brain injuries, stem cell therapy for brain or spinal cord injuries, and long-term antibiotic therapy for chronic borreliosis.

"Play with the fire"

Instead of getting well, some of these therapies put patients "real dangers", warned study co-author Ford Vox. According to a study from last year, the risk of dying from cancer is five times higher with purely homeopathic or naturopathic treatment than with chemotherapy or other established procedures.

Stem cell therapies for brain or spinal cord injuries are currently being tested, but such clinical trials are free and subject to strict conditions, says Fox: "Thus, it is clearly a warning signal when patients say they are collecting money for experimental stem cell treatments."

Clinics that offer such injections "play with fire," added the brain injury expert. They risked strokes, tumors, infections, meningitis and other "painful ailments" in the patients. Patients who tried to fight their cancer with homeopathy and naturopathy alone even risked their lives, according to Fox.

Easier acquisition

The researchers found doctors who offer such therapies on the Internet in a total of eight countries, including Germany. The Internet makes contact easier, they warn: "People read something online, jump on it and start an online donation campaign without consulting their doctor." In this way, even larger amounts would come together quickly, which "ordinary people would normally not have been able to raise". (APA, red, October 26, 2018)