Crowdfunding sites raise millions for dubious healthcare treatments

The high cost of healthcare services and treatments have led many individuals to turn to crowdfunding sites to help pay for the cost of care. However, these fundraising campaigns are sometimes raising money for less-than-credible treatments, according to a research letter published in JAMA.

The findings come at a time when healthcare costs have continued to outpace other areas of growth and have become an increasingly important issue to Americans. Many Americans also choose to delay care because they cannot afford it, a recent survey found.

While crowdfunding can help cover costs not paid for by insurance, scientifically unsupported, ineffective or potentially dangerous treatments are being thrown in the mix. The prevalence of these campaigns is also growing. In 2016, the largest medical crowdfunding platform, GoFundMe, raised $3 billion across its campaigns, compared to $1 billion in 2015.

Researchers led by Ford Vox, MD, with the medical ethics committee at the Shepard Center in Atlanta, analyzed four different crowdfunding platforms, including 1,636 campaigns, of which 1,059 intended to fund one of five selected treatments.

These five treatments, which are unsupported by evidence or are potentially unsafe, raised more than $6.7 million, according to the analysis. A separate study also found that more than $1 million was raised across 408 campaigns for “unproven stem cell interventions,” researchers noted.

“These results reveal that a wide scope of campaigns for unsupported, ineffective or potentially dangerous treatments are moderately successful in obtaining funding,” the letter concluded. “Assuming that the funds raised are spent to pay for these treatments, donors indirectly contributed millions of dollars to practitioners to deliver dubious, possibly unsafe care.”