4 posts from December, 2009

A Year in Review: PatientsLikeMe in 2009

Posted December 31st, 2009 by

As 2009 comes to an end, we want to take this opportunity to thank all of our members, partners and general fans for another great year.   Here’s a recap of some of the exciting happenings at PatientsLikeMe these past 12 months.  Wishing you all a Happy New Year!

Community Milestones
This year, the 15+ disease communities at PatientsLikeMe became an online home to more than 50,000 members.   The fibromyalgia community was expanded this past fall to include patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, and we announced a new community scheduled to launch early next year for people with epilepsy.  In addition to celebrating our communities’ awareness days and months within the site and right here on the blog (including Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, MS and PD Awareness Months, National HIV Testing Day and World AIDS Day), many of img_8741-300x225our members also participated on PatientsLikeMe teams in walk/run efforts to raise awareness and money in the name of their disease.  Congrats to the 40+ teams walking at events to support non-profit organizations like ALS Association, National MS Society, NAMI, Parkinson’s Alliance, APDA, and the MS Society of Canada. The real-time sharing and learning happening on PatientsLikeMe was also highlighted in the report series called The Patient Voice (starting with inpatient therapy for people with Mood conditions).  Check out highlights from all these programs on these videos from the Fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis and Mood communities.

Many of our members have also become fans of PatientsLikeMe on Facebook.  Here are a few quotes posted to our Facebook page in ’09:

I find this site so beneficial in looking for the tools to cope with the disease. People post research and real-life patient experiences of current trials and treatments. Hope is a major focus of PLM and I encourage others to join. We are strong in numbers and we have a voice.”

“PLM is a wonderful way to express what and how to live with this disease. It has changed my life for the better, have met wonderful individuals and we have shared, cried and grown by reaching out and expressing from our hearts, have made wonderful friends and have learned so much.”

Research Updates
If you haven’t checked out our research page or subscribed to Google Scholar alerts (92 articles referred to us in 2009!), here’s what you’ve been missing…

This year our ever-growing research team continued their analysis of the real-world data being shared by patients like you.  Awarded the inaugural JMIR award at Medicine 2.0, the PatientsLikeMe research team published pieces on compulsive gambling in patients with Parkinson’s disease in Movement Disorders, expanding the gold standard rating scale in advanced ALS in European Journal of Neurology, and “The power of social networking in medicine” in the highly respected journal Nature Biotechnology.

Throughout the year, the team has also shared insights via videos (like this series on the history of ALS or a recap of a study on the antidepressant Amitriptyline) and various presentations (such as an overview of our work at the at Eurordis berlin-lithium-poster-207x3001AGM in Athens and updates on our lithium study at the International ALS/MND Symposium).  In addition to working on the development of our new communities, the team took additional steps to incorporate genetics into the PatientsLikeMe platform.  By participating in new partner studies (such as 23andMe and NEALS) and utilizing new product upgrades, including the launch of the Genetic Search Engine, patients are learning more about their condition and coming closer to answering the question:  “Given my status, what is the best outcome I can expect to achieve, and how do I get there?”

Keep your eyes out for more to come in 2010 as our R&D team rolls out more insights and outcomes measurements (like the Quality of Life scale in HIV), more improvements to the PatientsLikeMe platform, and cutting edge research in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

The Business Side
As Ben said in a recent blog post, “we can’t have a business without you [the patient] and our communities can’t exist to help patients without a business.”  Throughout the year, the PatientsLikeMe executive team traveled around the world to present to industry partners, researchers, healthcare professionals and government leaders about the power of real-world patient data-sharing.  Here are some highlights from ’09:

  • The National SummitInnovation: As a leader in Health 2.0, PatientsLikeMe executives are often asked to speak at various industry events.  Check out photos of Ben speaking at The National Summit and stay tuned for videos from Jamie’s presentation at TEDMED and David’s presentation at Bil:Pil.  You can also tune in to our live event tweets on the PatientsLikeMe Twitter account in 2010.
  • Media Highlights: PatientLikeMe members, data and executives were also featured in media mentions throughout 2009, including WIRED, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Fox Business Live, Newsweek, New York Times, as well as Seed magazine, Nature Biotechnology and Neurology Today.

Happy New Year!
– The PatientsLikeMe Team


PatientsLikeMe @ The 20th International ALS/MND Symposium in Berlin

Posted December 21st, 2009 by

The 20th International Symposium on ALS/MND took place (December 8th-10th) in Berlin, Germany. This is the 4th ALS Symposium attended by PatientsLikeMe, and certainly the most exciting in terms of new findings. The annual symposium is a tremendous opportunity for researchers from around the world to meet and share new developments – it’s the big event for the ALS research community and attracts scientists from across the globe.

PatientsLikeMe Chairman and Co-Founder Jamie Heywood and Research Scientist Timothy Vaughan, PhD presented three posters at the conference with some of the findings we’ve generated this year. The highlight was a poster describing our analysis of the patient-led study of lithium carbonate. Using new techniques that compared patients on lithium to carefully matched control patients, we determined that the drug had no effect on the progression of ALS. The poster was well received with good feedback from experienced experts in the field, and we are currently working on writing up a full analysis and description of our techniques.

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Our second poster described a small survey we did about emotional lability, also known as pseudobulbar affect (PBA). We found that although many ALS patients suffer from unusual or uncontrollable outbursts of laughter, crying, or anger, patients aren’t discussing these episodes with their physicians.

berlin-pba-poster

Finally, we presented preliminary results from our Familial ALS Genetics Study. About 20 patients have told us about ALS-causing mutations they have, and so far, the data closely resembles other findings reported in the scientific literature. The PatientsLikeMe difference is that patients who know their mutations can find and connect with other patients like them for the very first time.

berlin-genetics-poster

We’d like to thank our research team for all their hard work this year. And of course, we’d like to thank our patients for sharing their data and making each of these studies possible. Here’s to further understanding and continued breakthroughs in 2010!

PatientsLikeMe member jheywood PatientsLikeMe member pwicks PatientsLikeMe member tvaughn


Harnessing New Media for Patient Advocacy (Part II)

Posted December 9th, 2009 by

A few weeks ago, I was invited to present on behalf of PatientsLikeMe at the Arthritis Foundation workshop held in Newport, RI.  The presentation was on how to “harness new media for patient advocacy” – the same as what I presented at a workshop for non-profits in northern New England in August.  This time the audience included non-profits in the southern half of New England.  Among those in attendance were representatives from organizations that mean a lot to us, and our patient communities, including regional branches of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, CFIDS & FM Association, and the Epilepsy Foundation.

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One of the highlights for attendees was an impassioned keynote speech by Rep. Patrick Kennedy (pictured above with me and my wife Emma) who advocated the use of the web to support mass organization of patients with serious and chronic illnesses to accelerate research and improve standards of care. We couldn’t agree more.  It’s exciting and validating to know influential decision-makers are recognizing the potential of communities like PatientsLikeMe.

PatientsLikeMe member pwicks


PatientsLikeMe Facing World AIDS Day 2009

Posted December 1st, 2009 by

Join AIDS.gov in Facing AIDS for World AIDS Day. December 1, 2009Every December 1st, we join hands with the HIV community at large in recognition of World AIDS Day.

The theme of World AIDS Day this year is leadership — a fitting theme for the 2500+ patients who are leading the way through openness in the PatientsLikeMe HIV community.  These leaders have chosen to share their health data and their personal stories of living with HIV, not only to manage their own disease, but also to help better the lives of others with HIV.

For 27 years, HIV/AIDS has been a global epidemic.  Today, our online community has a few thousand patients whose experiences of living with HIV run the gamut – from the newly diagnosed to those who were infected long ago.  Approximately  334 patients (or 12% of our community) indicate they were infected with HIV more than 20 years ago (such as BrightonBear, an early member who shared his story with us in this interview).  Similarly, 84 patients indicate on their profiles that they have been living with AIDS for more than 15 years.  All of these members have a lot to share – both through data and conversation – about how they continue to face the symptoms, treatments and side effects, and stigma of living HIV-positive.  There are also members who are new to HIV, with 162 patients in our HIV Community indicating they were diagnosed less than 2 years ago.  Our patients, both newly diagnosed and veterans in the HIV community, are true leaders – openly sharing their real-world health data and personal stories about living with HIV.  Here are some interesting tidbits the community is sharing:

  • How are patients like you evaluating the most popular treatments used for HIV? See what they say in our treatment reports about Atripla, Ritonavir, and Truvada.
  • Ever heard of Coconut Macaroon Cookies used to “treat” HIV? A handful of PatientsLikeMe members cite it as a great way for patients to curb their diarrhea, a common side effect of their cocktails.
  • That numbness in your hands and feet could be peripheral neuropathy, a common symptom in HIV. Patients are discussing treatments ranging from prescription drugs to lifestyle modifications to lessen the effects.
  • Some of the most discussed topics patients in our forum include specific treatments (i.e., Atripla and Truvada) and side effects, common symptoms (like fatigue) and other quality of life issues like depression, relationships, dealing with a new diagnosis, and coping.

For the past two years, PatientsLikeMe has worked in cooperation with AIDS.gov, a government media program committed to improving the lives of patients with HIV.  Check out their “Facing AIDS” photo campaign in honor of World AIDS Day.

Thank you to all of our members who continue to share and learn. It’s you who are leading the way.

PatientsLikeMe member mcotter