7 posts from December, 2008

10,000 MS Patients and Going Strong…

Posted December 31st, 2008 by

Today, the PatientsLikeMe Multiple Sclerosis (MS) community welcomed its 10,000th patient member!

As we end 2008, more than 10,000 patients in our community are coming together to share their life experiences on PatientsLikeMe. How much experience is that? Try more than 32,000 YEARS of collective experience with MS.

More members than ever are sharing in-depth health information with each other, having repeatedly seen the value that this provides to others (and to themselves). Our forum is where members convene to find support and talk about all sorts of health-related topics, including MS-related treatments. Copaxone, Avonex, Tysabri, Baclofen, Rebif, Betaseron, LDN and 4-AP and others top the list of treatments discussed this year. In addition to our dedicated treatment evaluation reports, several members also use the forum to keep journals of their experiences with specific treatments to better help others understand these meds. There is also a good deal of discussion on dealing with other aspects of MS, such as depression, steroids, family and relationships, etc. To date, the forum has more than 17,000 posts.

Ready to share your experiences with us in 2009? Check us out to see what patients like you are doing to live their best life with MS.   Happy New Year!

PatientsLikeMe member thorgan


Voices of Fibromyalgia: Patient Video

Posted December 31st, 2008 by

As we end the year, we give you the last 2008 video from PatientsLikeMe and the first of our new fibromyalgia community.  We asked this newly launched community to tell us “How are you overcoming fibromyalgia?”  This is what they had to say:

Thanks to all of you who contributed your “voice” to this video.   It’s truly a reflection of patients helping patients live better every day.  We look forward to hearing more voices in 2009!

Happy New Year!

PatientsLikeMe member lscanlon


Structuring and Presenting the Patients’ Perspective at AMIA

Posted December 15th, 2008 by

PatientsLikeMe members share health data on the site adding their own individual-level health experience to a repository of structured outcome data. The result? An unprecedented data set that informs medical conversation not only within the patient community but also with the larger scientific one.

Organized Patient ExperienceEarlier this fall, the venue for this conversation was the annual meeting of the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA). Typically, AMIA is a forum for medical researchers to discuss clinical-facing informatics projects like electronic medical records, doctor decision-support systems, and standards. This year, the event agenda included its first-ever panel on patient collaboration, with PatientsLikeMe presenting on how our members use informatics systems to spearhead original research.I presented a paper co-authored with Michael Massagli chronicling the activity on the ALS site regarding the site-based evaluation of Lithium. Questions about the paper were enthusiastic and challenging as medical researchers contemplated the full implications of patients conducting research outside of the healthcare system. The most provocative comment came from Danny Sands of Cisco who introduced the possibility that while he saw the value of PatientsLikeMe, we may also be “polluting clinical trials” – when patients with rare diseases take experimental treatments before being enrolled in (his) randomized clinical trials. My response was that he and others in the clinical trial world may feel differently if someone he cared for was diagnosed with ALS – a disease where patients have limited time to explore treatment options. As medical researchers, we should be proud of our patients who are taking an active role in their health care; I know I am.

The truth is, whether practitioners discuss it or not, people have long experimented with novel, off-label, and alternative treatments (some with and some without their physicians). Barring the few cases that are published in academic journals, these individual efforts only resulted in a tiny group of people learning anything from their experience. By organizing these individual efforts, PatientsLikeMe allows the data to be pooled and recorded systematically for analysis.

Of course, randomized clinical trials (RCTs) are the most rigorous means to systematize experimentation, but they have their draw-backs. They are expensive to run, time consuming (they take years, our study took months), and may be subject to more confounds than their organizers would like to believe.

While coordinated patient-led research on PatientsLikeMe is new, and as such presents novel challenges in its methods and credibility, we have now glimpsed its promise, its potential. Lithium was a first effort to study one treatment in one condition; it is just the beginning. There are many other treatments being used listed on the site by our patients that are not – for a variety of reasons – being studied systematically anywhere else. For example: Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN), Stem Cell Transplants in ALS, 4-Aminopyridine (4-AP), Botox injections to manage excess saliva, etc. These demand our attention.

Regarding the Lithium experiment, one patient described the situation better than I ever could in this forum post: “This is an amazing process.  Instead of sitting on the sidelines searching for promising research we are for the first time ever (from what I can determine) taking a group of people with a particular disease and taking an active role in researching a treatment.”

PatientsLikeMe’s members are not only learning how to best care for themselves, they are contributing their otherwise anecdotal experience to a body of data. Motivated by their own desire for better outcomes, patients are reporting directly to the website and building a body of evidence not being collected anywhere else. Together, with our carefully designed tools to capture, display, discuss and analyze this data, we are creating a repository of patient reported outcomes that will add patient data to evidence-based medicine and advance our knowledge.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?

PatientsLikeMe member jfrost


Voices of Fibromyalgia: Q&A with Minnie Lee

Posted December 9th, 2008 by

PatientsLikeMe’s David S. Williams sits down with well-known blogger, triathlete and fibromyalgia patient, Minnie Lee.   Lee, an early member of our new fibromylagia community which launched this week, has a public profile on the site.

***

picture-3.png (David) When were you diagnosed with fibromyalgia and when were your first symptoms?
picture-4.png (Minnie) I was diagnosed in late 2002.  However, my first symptoms started as early as 1998, and then became more prevalent and frequent in late 2000.
picture-3.png (David) How has fibromyalgia changed your life?
picture-4.png (Minnie) On its onset, the changes were negative.   I couldn’t engage in my usual social activities and I was getting sick more often than I was used to.  It was a shock to me, having always been such a healthy person all my life.  I limited myself even further using my “strangely named illness” as a crutch, which led me to be even more dormant.  That was early on.However, in the past 2-3 years, I have to say that fibromyalgia changed my life for the better.  It has given me purpose in life – to improve my own life and help others improve theirs by example of exercise, healthy eating and proper treatments.That said, while I still manage a fairly active and busy lifestyle– from having a full-time job to training for triathlons– I did have to make certain adjustments in my life to make sure I can work within my limitations.  First of all, I had to make the huge adjustment mentally to be ok with admitting that there are just certain things I can’t do.  For a type A person like me, it was one of the most difficult things I had to change (and it took a while).  I limit the number of errands I run in a day, even if I have a much longer list of things to do.  I spread them out over several days – which requires planning some things ahead.  To ensure I get good sleep (in both quality and quantity) to accommodate my training regimen, I make choices every day that make sleep and rest a priority.  If this means limiting my social engagements and having to cancel certain commitments, so be it.  I also had to make a mental shift at work to not get as affected by stressful situations, which has helped me greatly.
picture-3.png (David) What motivates you to train for triathlons and half-marathons?
picture-4.png (Minnie) There are three major factors that motivate me. First and foremost, this was my promise with God – to turn this negative situation around into a positive one.  I made a promise to swim, bike and run to not only help myself but to help others find hope in their every day lives.  Secondly, it is my fellow patients that motivate me to get up and moving.  I know there are people out there whose conditions have gotten so bad that they cannot engage in any kind of exercise.  I can’t imagine the pain and suffering they go through, and I want to dedicate my races to them, while giving hope to others that anything is possible.  I know that these endurance races are a rather extreme measure to promote the benefits of exercise, but I think by doing something extreme I can make a better point about what we’re capable of.  (If I can do a triathlon/half-marathon, you can definitely go for a walk and see how you feel!)  Lastly, my motivation is my own past.  Four to five years ago I was drowning in self-pity, dependent on muscle relaxants and pain killers, spending a lot of my leisure time in bed, and was frequently missing work enough to make me feel concerned about keeping my job.  They were some of the darkest days of my life.  Now, all I have to do is remember those days to get myself moving on a tough day.
picture-3.png (David) How do you see PatientsLikeMe helping the fibromyalgia community?
picture-4.png (Minnie) Launching a community site for fibromyalgia on PatientsLikeMe has significant meaning.  First of all, it adds to the recent recognition the illness has been gaining in the medical community.  It is time for any discussion of this illness being real or not to be over and done with.  Secondly, and more importantly, it has massive potential of being a crucial resource for patients that lack information and options about their conditions, by having every possible symptom and treatments laid out in one central source.  Additionally, patients can and will find friends that understand what they go through (and we don’t have many of those, because fibromyalgia is still a foreign language to many people).  Another amazing possibility is that this can be a great source for doctors, because knowledge and understanding of fibromyalgia among doctors can always be improved.  This can be the perfect linkage between patients, their support system and health care professionals.  I can’t help but be so enthused and excited about this endeavor PatientsLikeMe has set forth.  They are bringing such a helpful platform of information and communication to the fibromyalgia community.  Thanks!!!!

Introducing: Voices of Fibromyalgia

Posted December 8th, 2008 by

You raised your voice, we listened.  Today we launch our newest community:  Fibromyalgia.  This is the first in our special blog series, Voices of Fibromyalgia.

picture-1.pngThe impact of the disease on people’s lives can be enormous.  People often have difficulty completing even the easiest of tasks during the painful episodes, while the fatigue can also be debilitating.  Many patients with fibromyalgia struggle with presenteeism at work which can lead to disciplinary action or worse.

It’s time to take a stand.  We have decided to build this fibromyalgia community because we want to capture the realities of this disease and give patients a voice.  We want to research it and understand how it affects people’s lives.  We want to use this data and the community to create awareness about the disease and settle the “debate” about the validity of the condition.

Let your voice be heard.  Join the PatientsLikeMe fibromyalgia community, share your experiences, and let’s work together to advance the knowledge of this disease.

PatientsLikeMe member dwilliams


CBS Evening News, BusinessWeek, Fibromyalgia: Oh, Just Your Typical Friday

Posted December 5th, 2008 by

It’s exciting times for PatientsLikeMe!

fibronew.pngToday, our new community for people with fibromyalgia goes live on our site.  Spread the word!  Let’s bring a new level of understanding to this disease in a way that nobody else can.  Next week: a blog series regarding this new community and the people in it.

bw_255x541.gifIf you haven’t checked out the most recent issue of BusinessWeek yet, you’re in for a treat. Senior writer Catherine Arnst takes an in-depth look at how PatientsLikeMe is “changing the nature of drug research and the practice of medicine” in her article –  “Health 2.0:  Patients As Partners.”

picture-5.pngFinally, turn your channel to CBS Evening News with Katie Couric tonight to see PatientsLikeMe featured in a segment with medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.  Part of a week-long series about patients finding medical information online, our piece will include interviews with a patient member, as well as our founders.


We have lots happening, and lots more to come!  Stay tuned…literally.

PatientsLikeMe member lscanlon


World AIDS Day (12/1/08) – Embracing the Positive

Posted December 1st, 2008 by

bu_aids_badge6.gif

World AIDS Day is a milestone in so many different ways.  It has marked the persistence of HIV and its impact on our world, but we hope that we are approaching a turning point where World AIDS Day will come to mark progress.

What this day marks, however, is that being HIV positive doesn’t mean one will picture-1.pngautomatically get AIDS anymore.  People are living longer and medications continue to improve the health and quality of life for people with HIV.  There’s still a long way to go, but progress is being made.

A year ago on this day, the PatientsLikeMe HIV Community was open to a small group of beta-testers, and one of them asked in the Forum if people in the world-at-large even take notice of this day, or have any idea what it means for people with HIV?  Now, we have over 1,600 patients who are sharing their experience, giving each other needed information and support.  And they are using PatientsLikeMe to empower themselves to show the world on World AIDS Day and every day that there is life with HIV.

To learn more about our online community, check out our “2008 HIV Community Report:  Embracing the Positive.”

PatientsLikeMe member mmassagli