Medical Crowdfunding for Unproven Treatments


More than 1,000 online crowdfunding campaigns raised almost $7 million for five unproven and potentially risky medical treatments, according a study conducted at Emory University in Atlanta and published in JAMA. These crowdfunding campaigns, found mostly on GoFundMe, sought funds for:

  • Homeopathy for cancer
  • Naturopathy for cancer
  • Hyperbaric oxygen for brain injury
  • Experimental stem cell therapy for nervous system injury
  • Long-term antibiotics for chronic Lyme disease

Crowdfunding can assist patients who otherwise may be unable to afford medical care — including those who are under- or uninsured. But the results of this study suggest crowdfunding can also allow clinics and other health care providers to promote and profit from unproven, controversial treatments, some of which could offer false hope or cause harm to patients.

The Emory researchers got their data by looking at online campaigns posted from November 2015 to December 2017 to raise money for specific treatments, searching for terms like “homeopathy” and “cancer.” They found that 474 crowdfunding campaigns raised about $3.5 million for homeopathic or naturopathic cancer treatments during the study period. They also identified eight countries that patients involved in the campaigns intended to visit for experimental treatment, including Mexico, Germany, Panama, and China.

Sourced from: JAMA