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Crowdfunding Exaggerates Efficacy of Unproven Stem Cell Tx

WEDNESDAY, May 9, 2018 -- Crowdfunding campaigns for unproven stem cell-based interventions tend to exaggerate the efficacy and underemphasize the risks, according to a research letter published in the May 8 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Jeremy Snyder, Ph.D., from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada, and colleagues identified 351 U.S.-based businesses engaging in direct-to-customer marketing of stem cell interventions from September 2015 to February 2016. The authors searched for mentions of each of these businesses from August to December 2017 on crowdfunding platforms GoFundMe and YouCaring.

The researchers identified 408 campaigns as of Dec. 3, 2017, seeking donations for stem cell interventions advertised by 50 businesses. The campaigns requested $7,439,308; they received pledges from 13,050 donors for $1,450,011. On social media, the campaigns were shared 111,044 times. Of the 408 campaigns, 43.6, 30.4, and 15.4 percent made statements that were definitive or certain about the intervention's efficacy, made statements that were optimistic or hopeful about efficacy, and made statements of both kinds, respectively; 10.5 percent did not make efficacy claims. The 36 mentions of risks claimed low or no risks for the intervention relative to alternative treatments.

"These findings suggest that medical crowdfunding campaigns convey potentially misleading messages about stem cell-based interventions," the authors write.

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Posted: May 2018