61 posts tagged “Research”

Largest Patient Poll on ACA Shows Patients Value Health Care Law More Than the General Population, Are Less Inclined to Want a Repeal

Posted February 7th, 2017 by

Lowering Costs, Coverage for Pre-existing Conditions Remain Top Priorities; If Changes Are Required, Individual Mandate Should Go  

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., February 7, 2017—As Congress and the White House continue to discuss potential changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), PatientsLikeMe revealed results from the first large-scale poll to assess patient priorities for the health care law. The poll’s 2,197 respondents are among the estimated 133 million Americans living with chronic conditions.

Sally Okun, PatientsLikeMe’s Vice President of Advocacy, Policy and Patient Safety, said the poll gives voice to those who may be most heavily impacted by changes to the law. “Regardless of your political leaning, the great equalizer is that we’ll all become sick one day. At this time of uncertainty about the future of health care, listening to the voice of patients today will illuminate the path forward for all of us.”

Key findings from the poll show that overall, patients have the same concerns as the general population about health care costs, but see benefits in the law that the healthy may have overlooked:

  • More than half (57%) believe the ACA has been helpful to people living with chronic conditions.
  • Nearly half (46%) feel the ACA needs only minor modifications to improve it.
  • Over the last year, their out-of-pocket expenses for health care have either stayed the same (47%) or increased (43%).
  • Lowering costs is a priority for both patients in the PatientsLikeMe poll and for the general population, which took part in a December 2016 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll. Lowering the amount individuals pay for health care is an important priority for 94% of patients and 93% of the general population. Lowering the cost of prescription drugs is an important priority for 96% of patients and 89% of the general population.
  • Nearly half (46%) of PatientsLikeMe poll respondents felt that a repeal of the 2010 ACA “should not be done,” while one third (31%) of the Kaiser general population felt it “should not be done.”
  • When asked which one component of the ACA they would eliminate if they were forced to choose, PatientsLikeMe respondents were four times more likely to say they would eliminate the individual mandate vs. other components of the ACA.
  • When asked which one component of the ACA they would keep if they were forced to choose, PatientsLikeMe respondents were six times more likely to say they would keep mandatory coverage for pre-existing conditions vs. other components of the ACA.
  • The widest differences in opinion related to questions about a repeal of and government involvement in health care law, and were found between the general population, non-condition specific patients, and those who reported major depressive disorder (MDD) as their primary condition:
  • Of those living with MDD, 59% said that the health care law should not be repealed, vs. 45% of the overall PatientsLikeMe respondents and 31% of the Kaiser general population.
  • 42% of respondents living with MDD said decreasing federal government spending on health care should not be done, vs. 29% of the overall patient population and 18% of the Kaiser general population.
  • As for reducing the federal government’s role in health care, 37% of patients living with MDD said it should not be done, compared to 28% of the overall patient population and 20% of the Kaiser general population.

Okun said that patients living with MDD may have a stronger opinion about healthcare law given the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), a law passed by Congress in 2008 and codified into rules in 2013 to ensure equal treatment coverage for mental illness and addiction. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), before the law, “mental health treatment was typically covered at far lower levels in health insurance policies than physical illness.”

Full survey results and graphics are available at http://news.patientslikeme.com.

PatientsLikeMe Poll Methodology
Between January 23-27, 2017, PatientsLikeMe fielded a 19-question poll to a sample of its members in the United States who are living with chronic or progressive degenerative conditions. A total of 2,197 patients completed the poll, which asked both original questions and questions from a December 2016 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll to compare patient and general population responses.

Respondents had a range of chronic or progressive medical conditions and listed their primary condition as multiple sclerosis (13%), fibromyalgia (12%), Parkinson’s disease (6%), major depressive disorder (5%), ALS (5%), type 2 diabetes (3%) and multiple myeloma (3%), among many other conditions. The mean age of respondents was 54.5 years (the range was 18- >89). Of 1,840 respondents who gave information on level of education (83.8% of total), 1.0% had less than a high school diploma, 11.0% had high school diplomas, 38.3% had some college, 27.7% reported a college degree, and 22% reported post-graduate education. About one-third (36%) of patients had health insurance through their employer, one-third (35%) had Medicare; and the rest had a mix of other health care coverage including Medicaid, VA, military, and direct pay insurance, which includes insurance purchased from ACA exchange programs. A very small percentage (2.5%) of respondents said they had no health insurance. Nearly all respondents (95%) are registered voters. Their party affiliation is as follows: 37% say they are Democrats, 19% are Republicans; 15% are Independent; 13% preferred not to say; 11% are unaffiliated and 4% are Libertarian.

About PatientsLikeMe
PatientsLikeMe, the world’s largest personalized health network, helps people find new options for treatments, connect with others, and take action to improve their outcomes. The company has worked with every major pharmaceutical company and a range of government organizations to bring the patient voice to research, development and public policy. With 500,000 members, PatientsLikeMe is a trusted source for real-world disease information and a clinically robust resource that has published more than 100 research studies. Visit us at www.patientslikeme.com or follow us via our blog, Twitter or Facebook.

 


A PatientsLikeMe researcher’s take on the opioid crisis and new prescribing regulations

Posted January 25th, 2017 by

Meet Emily (EmilyMcNaughton), a PatientsLikeMe researcher with more than ten years of experience in both the private and public sector. She’s here to weigh in on the recent Boston Globe article addressing the aftermath of the opioid crisis. New prescribing regulations have some doctors hesitant to prescribe these drugs, but that could prove more harmful to the patients who rely on them for pain control.

Check out the Boston Globe article, and see what Emily has to say below.

 

A researcher’s perspective

Prescription opioid medications have been widely discussed over the past 15 years, especially with the surge of prescriptions dispensed during the 2000s, which created an epidemic of abuse and overdose-related deaths. Because the prescription-opioid landscape seems to be constantly changing, people all across the medical, public health, regulatory and pharmaceutical sectors have been working to find solutions that will still allow patients to access their prescribed pain medications while minimizing problems with abuse, misuse, death, and product diversion (when patients either share, give or sell their prescription medications, or medications are stolen).

Many would agree that it’s been helpful to increase awareness, education and open communication between doctors and patients about these medications, but some aspects of restricting the availability of prescription opioids might cause unintended harm to patients.  As this Boston Globe article highlights, many doctors are now prescribing fewer opioids than in previous years and in some cases doctors fear that these reductions may hurt patients.

With any public health problem, solutions are not always perfect and there are pros and cons to every decision. In terms of prescription opioid medication, here are some of my thoughts on public health recommendations, regulatory changes and how they might impact patients. 

Advantages

  • There’s more awareness around how to appropriately use prescription opioids, the potential risks they pose and the proper prescribing practices, both within the medical community as well as patients and the public.
  • We’re seeing recommendations for increased patient-doctor communication about goals for prescription opioid use as well as alternative treatments, when appropriate.

Potential Unintended Consequences

  • There’s a growing pressure among doctors who fear there may be consequences for prescribing opioid medications.
  • There’s a possibility that difficult regulatory hurdles might deter a physician’s willingness, or even ability, to prescribe opioid medications in appropriate situations.
  • Blanket regulations that set maximum prescribing limits do not take into account the individual needs of each patient or doctor expertise.
  • Patients might have insufficient access to or may be unable to afford alternative treatments or pain medicine specialists if a physician is reluctant to prescribe opioid medications.

Other Considerations

  • Regulatory changes don’t address the issue of opioid-deaths that are caused by abuse of non-pharmaceutical products, like heroin.
  • For individuals with opioid addiction, substance abuse treatment remains complicated and is not always affordable.

What do you think about this topic?

 

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PatientsLikeMe Launches Virtual Trial for ALS Patients

Posted October 25th, 2016 by

Study With Major Academic Medical Center to Evaluate the Potential of the Soy Peptide Lunasin to Reverse ALS Symptoms


DURHAM, N.C., October 25, 2016—PatientsLikeMe and The Duke ALS Clinic have just completed enrollment in a virtual trial designed to test whether Lunasin, a peptide found in soy and some cereal grains, is helpful or harmful to patients living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The Lunasin Virtual Trial is the first study of the supplement in ALS patients and follows a review analyzing its potential to reverse ALS in ALSUntangled, a website for clinicians, patients and researchers to explore alternative treatments.

Duke ALS Clinic Director and ALSUntangled Founder Richard Bedlack, MD, said he first heard about Lunasin’s potential from Mike McDuff, an ALS patient who took the supplement and experienced dramatic improvements in speech, swallowing and limb strength.

“I reviewed Mike’s records and reports, and both his diagnosis and his improvements appeared real,” Bedlack said. “Of course, Mike might have an ALS mimic we don’t know how to test for, or his body may have found a way to beat ALS independent of treatment. But there is one more possibility: his Lunasin regimen might have actually worked. I was compelled to design a study to treat other ALS patients with the same regimen to test if anyone else improves.”

As part of the trial, 50 participants will make three in-person visits to the Duke ALS clinic to measure the supplement’s impact over the course of the year-long study. They will also complete virtual check-ins as members of PatientsLikeMe every 30 days to update their weight, complete an evaluation of their Lunasin regimen, and complete the ALS Functional Rating Scale (Revised, ALSFRS-R), a widely-used patient-reported outcome developed by PatientsLikeMe that allows patients to see their disease progression visually and in context.

Bedlack said the study’s design is patient-centric and eliminates many of the frustrations patients say are inherent in traditional clinical trials. The design also likely contributed to what Bedlack calls the fastest enrollment of any trial in ALS history: the virtual trial took just over five months to fill.

“There are no placebos, and we made the inclusion criteria very broad so that even ALS patients who can’t qualify for other studies due to their long disease duration or use of a ventilator can qualify,” Bedlack said. “We’re also limiting the burden on the participants by helping them check in online from the comfort of home. And we’ve already published the protocol on our ALS Reversals website. We’re taking a completely open approach so that anyone, anywhere, can see the details of what we’re testing and learn more about whether this is helpful, harmful, or does nothing at all. I think all of these factors made the trial very attractive to ALS patients.”

PatientsLikeMe began as a website for people living with ALS to openly share their experiences with each other and study alternative and off-label treatments. Vice President of Innovation Paul Wicks, PhD, said the company’s research focus gave ALS patients a science-based platform to monitor themselves, get ideas from other patients, and play a more active role in their own healthcare. That focus has also helped the company produce more than 30 published research studies on the condition, including a 2011 observational study in Nature Biotechnology that refuted the results of a 2008 clinical trial on the efficacy of lithium carbonate on ALS. More recently the company has worked with Bedlack to study the frequency of ALS plateaus and reversals. Findings from that study were recently published online and in the March 2016 print edition of the journal Neurology.

Anyone taking Lunasin outside of the Lunasin Virtual Trial is invited to separately track their experiences on PatientsLikeMe at www.patientslikeme.com.

ALS is a degenerative disorder affecting upper motor neurons in the brain and lower motor neurons in the brain stem and spinal cord. Symptoms include progressive weakness, atrophy, fasciculation, dysphagia, and eventual paralysis of respiratory function.

Study Design Methodology

The Lunasin Virtual Trial is a 12-month, widely inclusive, largely virtual, single-center, open-label pilot trial utilizing a historical control group. Participants will be asked to sign in or register for an account on www.patientslikeme.com with the help of the study coordinator and will be given a welcome packet that includes a one sheet description of the study, a checkup checklist, and the first month of a total 12-month supply of Lunasin. User IDs associated with participants’ PatientsLikeMe account will be recorded by the study coordinator and shared with study staff at PatientsLikeMe. After the initial in-clinic visit, participants will be asked to enter the following data online: weight, Lunasin study drug regimen evaluation, and their ALSFRS-R score.

About PatientsLikeMe

PatientsLikeMe is a patient network that improves lives and a real-time research platform that advances medicine. Through the network, patients connect with others who have the same disease or condition and track and share their own experiences. In the process, they generate data about the real-world nature of disease that help researchers, pharmaceutical companies, regulators, providers, and nonprofits develop more effective products, services, and care. With more than 400,000 members, PatientsLikeMe is a trusted source for real-world disease information and a clinically robust resource that has published more than 80 research studies. Visit us at www.patientslikeme.com or follow us via our blog, Twitter or Facebook.

Contact                                                                                                Margot Carlson Delogne
PatientsLikeMe
mcdelogne@patientslikeme.com
+1.781.492.1039


PatientsLikeMe Names Marni Hall Senior Vice President

Posted July 11th, 2016 by

Former Director within the FDA to Spearhead Company’s Research and Policy Initiatives

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., July 11, 2016—PatientsLikeMe announced today it has appointed Marni Hall, PhD, MPH, as its new Senior Vice President of Research and Policy. A distinguished research scientist and public policy expert, Hall will develop and direct the strategies and teams focused on expanding the role of real-world evidence in precision medicine, and in the research agendas of PatientsLikeMe and its customers.

Hall joins the company from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) where she was most recently Director of Regulatory Science within the Office of Surveillance and Epidemiology (OSE) for the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). In this role, Hall became an expert at sourcing and analyzing big data sets, including adverse event reports, claims, -omics, and other data useful to risk assessment and risk management activities. She led data management and program operations, as well as research and development efforts to identify, evaluate, and implement new data, tools, and methods to support regulatory decision making. Specifically Hall’s team explored big data sources such as the FDA Adverse Event Reporting Systems (FAERS) and the Sentinel Initiative, and led post-market safety studies and programs using observational data to gain insight into drug safety and drug performance.

PatientsLikeMe CEO Martin Coulter said Hall “will now apply her strategic research and operational expertise to help us work with our members and partners to use patient-reported data in new and innovative ways, so that the patient experience can lead to even more significant developments and discoveries, such as improved outcomes.”

According to Hall, the new opportunity allows her to continue to do research in a scientifically-rigorous and patient-centered setting. “PatientsLikeMe has been a critical force in documenting and analyzing real-life patient experiences and evolving the role of real-world evidence in clinical and public health research. My goal is to extend its impact, so that the patient experience drives a future where healthcare is able to emphasize individual needs and preferences. I’m thrilled to join a company that is so focused on helping people thrive each day, while collecting data essential to this emerging field,” Hall said.

A research scientist by training, Hall has spent nearly two decades at the intersection of science and policy. She started her career studying toxicology and molecular epidemiology at Columbia University. After serving as Program Director in the Public Health Group of External Medical Affairs at Pfizer, Hall joined the FDA’s Office of Planning and Informatics (OPI) in 2008 as a Principal Analyst. In this role, she initiated and led the development of CDER’s data standards plan. She was appointed Director of Regulatory Science in 2011.

Hall holds bachelor of science degrees in chemistry and in society, technology, and policy from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. She also holds a master’s degree in public health from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health as well as a master of science degree in biochemistry and a PhD in toxicology from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

About PatientsLikeMe

PatientsLikeMe is a patient network that improves lives and a real-time research platform that advances medicine. Through the network, patients connect with others who have the same disease or condition and track and share their own experiences. In the process, they generate #dataforgood: data about the real-world nature of disease that help researchers, pharmaceutical companies, regulators, providers and nonprofits develop more effective products, services and care. With more than 400,000 members, PatientsLikeMe is a trusted source for real-world disease information and a clinically robust resource that has published more than 70 research studies. Visit us at www.patientslikeme.com or follow us via our blog, Twitter or Facebook.

Contact
Katherine Bragg
PatientsLikeMe
kbragg@patientslikeme.com
+1.617.548.1375


What’s your experience with accessing your electronic medical records?

Posted May 17th, 2016 by

Hi everyone! I’m Sally Okun, Vice President for Advocacy, Policy and Patient Safety at PatientsLikeMe. Most of you probably already know me, but just in case you don’t, I really focus on bringing the patient voice to affect better treatment, services and care, and to be sure that the needs of patients are at the front of healthcare discussions. I’m also the link between PatientsLikeMe and government and regulatory agencies.

And that’s what brings me to the blog today. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is working on a new research study and they want to hear directly from patients like you about your experiences with your electronic medical records. Specifically the team at GAO is interested to learn about your experience accessing your health information electronically for viewing it yourself, downloading it to a computer or other device and/or sending it to someone else of your choosing.

Find out more below about the GAO, this new research project and who to contact if you’d like to participate.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO), an agency that evaluates federal programs for Congress, is conducting research to examine patients’ experiences with electronically viewing, downloading, or transmitting their health information, which will be incorporated into a publicly available report. GAO would like to hear directly from consumers to learn about any relevant experiences they may have had in this regard (e.g., viewing health information in an online patient portal, downloading health information into a personal health record app, sending/receiving health information to/from a physician).

If you would like to volunteer to discuss your experiences with GAO, whether positive or negative, please send an email with your first name directly to GAO at HealthInfoAccess@gao.gov by June 7, 2016. GAO will contact you to schedule a short, anonymous telephone interview at your convenience to discuss your experiences.

GAO will NOT collect any personal information during the interview, such as your full name or other identifying information. In addition, GAO will only ask questions about your experiences electronically accessing your health information, not any questions about the nature of your health information itself. Any information GAO collects from consumers will be published in a manner that protects your confidentiality and anonymity.

Let your voice be heard!

 

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Your data doing good: IPF treatment experiences

Posted December 12th, 2015 by

Every minute of every day, people are sharing their health data on PatientsLikeMe. Some of you are focused on tracking how you’re doing over time. Many want to make sure the next person diagnosed can learn from your experience. All are contributing to the greater good, because what you share helps researchers see what patients really need.

During #24DaysofGiving, we’re highlighting some of the most important things we’ve learned from data that members like you have selflessly shared, and all the good your data donations are doing.

Every year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves new medications that can help people living with life-changing conditions. But with new treatments come new questions. And that’s exactly what happened at the end of 2014 for people living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

IPF is a rare condition that causes scarring in deep lung tissue over time and has no cause or cure, and before October 2014 no available treatment. That’s when two FDA-approved medications for the condition became available, simultaneously. They had the potential to make a difference in the lives of IPF patients, but how could they learn which medication might be right for them? If they started taking one of the new treatments, would they experience the side effects that were reported by the FDA? Would the side effects go away, or get better? In short: were the drugs worth taking?

We set out on a journey with members of the PatientsLikeMe IPF community to get answers from the best source possible—other patients who had already started to take the treatments. We worked together to understand their complete experience, everything from how they learned about the new treatments and if they were hard to access, to their side effects and what might cause them to switch treatments. The data that the community shared (all of it) is helping other members better understand what could work for them.

Here’s just some of what we discovered, and what others are learning, thanks to the data that members donated:

About making choices and getting access
Physician buy-in matters. In fact, physicians were active participants in 60-70% of the treatment decisions IPF patients made. But once they made a choice to begin treatment, patients were challenged to work around obstacles that prevented them from getting access to the treatment, things like how to get reimbursed and even where to fill the prescription.

About the side effects vs. the clinical trial
The overall side effects when first starting the medication were similar. Most patients, between 69-72%, reported ‘none’ or ‘mild’ side effects for one or other treatment. Patients also reported some side effects more often than those patients who were in the clinical trials. For one medication, patients reported higher rates of decreased appetite compared to the clinical trial participants (27% vs. 8%) and sensitivity to sunlight (18% v. 9%).  For the other treatment, patients reported a higher rate of decreased appetite (19% v. 11%) compared to the clinical trial participants.

Switching it up
Most patients, between 55-57%, aren’t sure if they are satisfied with their treatment, but only a small percentage, between 8-10%, report that they are likely to stop taking the medications

There is a lot more to learn here:

We’ll all continue to learn in real time as more and more IPF members share their experiences with the treatments, but the IPF example underscores why giving your data matters so much—to you, to others, and to research. We’re truly better together.

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Your data doing good: The Fitbit study

Posted December 4th, 2015 by

When you share your health data, we all learn

During #24DaysofGiving this December, we’ll highlight some of the most important things we’ve learned from data that members have selflessly shared, and all the good data donation is doing. One example is the Fitbit study we partnered with Biogen on earlier this year. Nearly 250 members living with MS took part in the study, using Fitbit trackers to monitor their walking activity. What did we all learn? That combining the data members add to their PatientsLikeMe profiles with data collected by activity trackers can impact self-discovery and research.

We’ve all seen the popularity of wearable devices (like activity trackers) soar in the last two years. They can keep track of the calories you eat, the steps you take, the sleep you get, and just about everything in between. They’re practical too: easy to use, progressively cheaper to buy, and so low-key that you almost forget they’re there.

As PatientsLikeMe is watching the world of devices evolve, we’ve actually been thinking about its potential impact in a different way, and on a totally different level. These devices make it easier to monitor what’s going on for patients in the real world and in between doctor visits, not just at one point in time, or at appointment with your care team.

Why does this matter to anyone living with MS? For the 45,000 members of the MS community on PatientsLikeMe, they know that the condition can impact their ability to get around. Yet, the standard test to measure how they’re doing over time is the walking test. It’s typically conducted in the perfectly flat and safe hallway of a doctor’s office. That’s not exactly the real world, where pavements can be uneven, obstacles get in the way, and the distance you need to walk is usually a lot farther than 25 feet.

So we thought about the data tracked while using these devices and the impact that they could have in a patient’s life. Could devices help give patients a bigger picture of their habits and health, and help them have more informed conversations with their care team about what to change to improve their outcomes?

Earlier this year, PatientsLikeMe partnered with pharmaceutical company Biogen to find answers, and set out to design a patient-centered study using wearable devices. We kicked off the study with 248 PatientsLikeMe members living with MS. Our goal was to learn if people living with MS could use wearable activity trackers to collect and share their mobility data, which could potentially provide relevant information to their care team and to other patients. Study results were presented at the 67th American Academy of Neurology’s (AAN) Annual Meeting in Washington, DC in April, and here’s what they revealed:

Members were engaged in tracking their activity, even though nearly half had never done so before.

  • About 82% of those that took part activated their Fitbit and authorized PatientsLikeMe to access their data.
  • As a group, they synced their devices an average of 18 days over the 21-day study, for a remarkable 87% adherence rate. Said another way, they stuck with the study. (Now, that’s really donating data!)
  • During the study they walked more than 15 million steps, the equivalent of 6,820 miles or the distance from Boston to Beijing, China.

The study had a lasting impact.

Annette, a PatientsLikeMe member and study participant who had never used a wearable activity tracker before, said she got a lot of positive reinforcement to do more each day. “The Fitbit also allowed me to track what I was eating and how I was sleeping. I made more positive choices as a result.”

Those 248 members used their Fitbits for four weeks, and then we reached out to them with a follow-up survey to get their feedback. About 190 of them completed the survey, and here’s some of what we learned:

  • 89% believe activity tracking is important for health management.
  • 55% believe that the device helped change their health routine.
  • 68% said the device would help them manage and track their MS.

The study and survey made it clear that activity monitoring has the potential to engage patients as advocates in their own care, and give healthcare providers a realistic view of their patients’ daily activities outside of the office. Just how far and wide that impact can go is what we could study next, thanks to patients like you who took these first steps with us to get it all started.

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A patient’s perspective: member Gary reports back from the FDA public meeting on Parkinson’s disease

Posted October 27th, 2015 by

Back in September, Sally Okun, Vice President of Advocacy, Policy and Patient Safety, and community moderator Molly Cotter, attended the FDA public meeting on Parkinson’s disease (PD) along with PatientsLikeMe member Gary (tupelo).

We posted some interesting developments from the meeting in the forum, but we also caught up with Gary for his perspective on the event. Here’s what he had to say:

Why did you want to be part of the FDA public meeting?

On the day I was diagnosed, back in 2012, I spent a great deal of time reflecting on my life. I thought a lot about how Parkinson’s disease will impact me and my family in the future. On that day I made a commitment to myself that I was going to take control, to the best of my ability, on the course of the disease progression, and would do anything possible to find a cure. I was determined to educate myself as much as possible about the disease, put together the best possible health care team, learn all I could about treatments currently in research, and participate in clinical trials. Parkinson’s was a new challenge in my life and I intended to tackle it like I would any other challenge that I had faced in the past. Along the way in this new journey, I became more publicly involved as a PD advocate, both for advancing research as well as supporting newly diagnosed patients. So, when I noticed the FDA announcement regarding the meeting, I decided to send in my comments and thoughts in hope that they might be helpful, to whatever degree, in moving research along for better treatments.

What did it mean to be accepted?

When I submitted my comments I never expected to be asked to participate on one of the panels, nor was I intending to attend the meeting, which was on the eve of a religious holiday. I was quite surprised when I was contacted by the FDA, but was caught in a dilemma. Participation meant missing an important time with my family. However, when we discussed it, we all agreed that this was such a great opportunity, and honor, to be able to represent the needs of the millions of Parkinson’s disease patients worldwide to the FDA. There was no way I could turn down that kind of invitation.

What was it like being there as a patient representative at the FDA event? Did you feel like your voice was heard?

I’ve participated in a number of seminars and conferences in the past, so there wasn’t much difference with the arrangement for this meeting. If anything, it was much more low key. Nevertheless, I definitely had a sense of awe when I arrived at the FDA complex. There were multiple buildings all over the sprawling campus. It immediately reminded me of the importance of this event compared to others I’ve attended. We were going to be presenting to the Director of the FDA’s Division of Neurology Products and nine other senior staff members. This is about as high up as we could go in our advocacy to advance Parkinson’s disease research.

During the meeting, it was difficult for me to tell how our presentations were going and whether they would have an impact on the FDA’s staff, although it appeared to me that they were listening intently. I was certainly concerned about the limited amount of time I had to speak. Several days later, though, I watched the webinar presentation of our event and I felt that we hit on the large majority of the most important areas of concern that our community has regarding current and new treatments. Only time will tell if the FDA will act accordingly with our hopes and suggestions. One small item that I noticed which suggests that they were listing involves a question on the Patient Questionnaire at the meeting. We were asked to choose from a list of Parkinson’s symptoms the ones that were most impactful on our lives. In my presentation, along with several of the other panel members, we noted that they didn’t include pain or orthostatic hypotension, two very common symptoms, on their list. I did, however, see that on the new follow-up survey the FDA is conducting, they have added both symptoms to the bottom of the list. So, at a minimum, they were listening as we spoke about these debilitating symptoms.

What did you learn while you were there?

Well, I can’t say that I learned much about the disease while I was there, but, of course, that wasn’t the purpose of the meeting. Our presentations were intended to educate the senior staff and decision makers of the FDA. That being said, what I did learn was the amazing dedication and effort that members of our Parkinson’s community will undertake in order to be heard at a forum. Members with severe difficulties traveled from all parts of our country in order to be able to speak for a few minutes. I was truly honored, and most definitely humbled, to be part of a panel with these dedicated individuals. If you haven’t yet seen the archived presentation of the meeting online, I suggest that you at least watch the members of the first panel speak to the FDA about their symptoms, it was amazing.

What are your hopes for future research in Parkinson’s disease?

We were asked by the FDA to limit our answers to their questions in the context outside of finding an actual cure. In addition, we were mainly directing our responses to the FDA’s role of controlling the approval and distribution of prescription drugs, more so than studying the potential impact of alternative therapies such as exercise, vitamins or other supplements, or the development of new medical devices to assist with symptomatic control (all of which are needed). So I’ll stay within that premise.

I see the need for a three-direction approach for future research. First, we need to continue and expand research into the biological science of Parkinson’s disease, as well as other neurological diseases with similar developmental processes, such as Alzheimer’s and ALS. With a better understanding of the disease cause, pathways, and progression, we will have a much greater chance of finding better treatments and potential cures.

Second, I would like to see research into the development of better symptomatic treatments. These treatments should be effective for multiple symptoms, have fewer disabling side effects, and have extended release and longer term activity. Although today’s treatments are somewhat effective treating motor impairment, they are greatly lacking in effectiveness for many other non-motor symptoms. Many of the drugs have side effects that can be more disabling than the symptoms they treat. In addition, it would be desirable for new treatments have ease of administration, such as oral, sublingual or inhalable as opposed to invasive surgery or device implantation.

Third, and most importantly, we need research to discover interventional treatments that can slow or halt the disease progression, if not totally cure it. This research should target the development of new drugs and vaccines that can intercede along all of the numerous biological pathways as the disease progresses. For example, we would find means to either stop the misfolding of proteins, prevent proteins already misfolded from accumulating in brain cells, or eliminate misfolded proteins which have already accumulated and are leading to cell death. Finally, I would like to see more research in alternative treatments, such as stem cells and human growth factors, in addition to traditional drug development. It’s imperative that the FDA allow our scientists to be as innovative as possible as they attempt to find treatments and cures for the most complex illnesses we have in brain diseases. With new interventional disease modifying drugs, along with improved symptomatic treatments and a proper exercise regimen, most, if not all of us dealing with Parkinson’s disease would be able to live active and productive lives for many years beyond our diagnosis.

For more information, check out the full video of Gary’s panel. And don’t forget to visit the site to connect with Gary and the more than 11,000 other PatientsLikeMe members living with Parkinson’s disease.

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Tackling brain illness, together

Posted September 4th, 2015 by

Our partners at One Mind are advocating for a better understanding of the brain in general, and they’ve narrowed it down to a single statement:

Our brains need answers.

And that’s why they launched the “Needs” campaign story, underneath the hashtag #BrainsNeedAnswers. Think about it – what does your brain, or the brain of a friend or family member, need? It’s not just about researching better treatments or improving the diagnostic process for conditions like PTS and TBI. Rather, it’s about everybody coming together to share their own experiences with brain injury to help raise awareness and increase general knowledge about brain health. Tankmartin, a PTS member of PatientsLikeMe, is the centerpiece of the campaign. Read what he had to say:

If you’d like to participate in the #BrainsNeedAnswers campaign, visit One Mind’s website to learn more about how you can make a difference. And if you’re living with PTS, TBI or another mental health condition, reach out to others like you in the PatientsLikeMe community and find the answers to your own brain questions.

Don’t forget to share this post on Twitter and help spread the word for #BrainsNeedAnswers.


Throwback Thursday: Diabetes and stress

Posted August 27th, 2015 by

Just about two years ago, nearly 600 members of the PatientsLikeMe community completed a survey called the Diabetes Distress Scale (DDS), a 17-item questionnaire which measures the amount and types of problems diabetes can cause in a person’s life. And today, we’re throwing it back to the summary of the results. Here’s what Dr. William Polonsky, the Founder and President of the Behavioral Diabetes Institute, and the co-creator of the DDS, had to say at the time about diabetes and stress:

“I believe it’s important to understand the physical, behavioral and emotional sides of illness. Diabetes, in particular, is so highly dependent on what people do every day.  It is, therefore, almost all about behavior− how do you talk yourself into taking on new tasks and making changes in your lifestyle, some of them which may seem not so pleasant or worthwhile, that you’d rather not do.”

You might recognize Dr. Polonsky from his subsequent blog podcast and additional research with the WHYSTOP scale. You can view the results of the DDS as a PDF, but check out some of the graphs below.

 

Have you had an A1C test done in the past year?

If you’re living with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, find others just like you in the growing communities on PatientsLikeMe. Almost 20,000 people with type 1 or type 2 are sharing their experiences to help others, for good.

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ORE Researcher Series: Dr. Larry Alphs Talks PROs and Depression

Posted August 1st, 2015 by

Dr. Larry Alphs, the Therapeutic Area Leader in Psychiatry for Janssen Pharmaceuticals, shared about his research as part of PatientsLikeMe’s ORE Researcher Series. You’ve already listened to Dr. Tamara Kear and the McMaster University researchers – click below to watch Dr. Alphs speak about a new drug that could eventually treat suicidal thoughts.

 

 

What exactly is the ORE? PatientsLikeMe’s ORE platform gives patients the chance to not only check an answer box, but also share their feedback on each question in a researcher’s health measure. They can tell our research partners what makes sense, what doesn’t, and how relevant the overall tool is to their condition. It’s all about collaborating with patients as partners to create the most effective tools for measuring disease.

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ORE Researcher Series: McMaster University

Posted July 20th, 2015 by

Last month, you met ORE researcher Tamara Kear, PhD., R.N., CNS, CNN, and you listened to her talk about her research on hypertension, one of the factors that can lead to a person developing kidney disease. Today, we’re introducing McMaster University Professor Gordon Guyatt and students Melody Ren and Reza Mirzaie. The question they are asking is “how are patients currently receiving bad news from a medical professional, and are the guidelines doctors have on delivering bad news actually correct?” Below, listen to the three researchers talk about their work and how the ORE platform and PatientsLikeMe made their research possible.

What exactly is the ORE? PatientsLikeMe’s ORE platform gives patients the chance to not only check an answer box, but also share their feedback on each question in a researcher’s health measure. They can tell our research partners what makes sense, what doesn’t, and how relevant the overall tool is to their condition. It’s all about collaborating with patients as partners to create the most effective tools for measuring disease.

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ORE Researcher Series: Tamara Kear is listening to kidney patients

Posted June 25th, 2015 by

Over the next few months, you’ll meet a few Open Research Exchange (ORE) researchers, and first up is Tamara Kear, PhD., R.N., CNS, CNN. She has over 20 years’ practice as a nurse caring for patients with kidney disease. Her research is focused on hypertension, one of the factors that can lead to a person developing kidney disease.

Tamara has developed a scale for healthcare providers that helps them learn how well a patient is doing at home and identify barriers they are experiencing in managing their hypertension. Her goal is to develop a better tool. In her video, she explains her ORE research and her philosophy that patients should be “not just informers for researchers, but actually the researchers themselves.”

What exactly is the ORE? PatientsLikeMe’s ORE platform gives patients the chance to not only check an answer box, but also share their feedback on each question in a researcher’s health measure. They can tell our research partners what makes sense, what doesn’t, and how relevant the overall tool is to their condition. It’s all about collaborating with patients as partners to create the most effective tools for measuring disease.

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Sally Okun explains the new research collaboration with the FDA

Posted June 16th, 2015 by

Yesterday, we announced a new research collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that will explore how patient-reported data can lead to new insights about drug safety. It’s the first time the FDA will analyze patient-generated data for pharmacovigilence (aka drug safety).

But we’re no strangers to drug safety. Check out some of the previous work the community has helped to drive:

To learn more about this new (and unprecedented) collaboration, we talked to our very own Sally Okun, Vice President of Advocacy, Policy and Patient Safety.

What will this collaboration do?
Patients’ lives and well-being often depend upon medical products approved and regulated by the FDA. But most of the information we see on safety labels comes from clinical trials, which aren’t typically representative of the actual populations of patients who will take the medication. Working with us, the FDA will be able to see the real-world impact of taking medications over time, which can help identify benefits and risks earlier. The FDA isn’t just talking about patient-centricity; they are partnering with us to work directly with patients, and give them a collective voice as part of the FDA’s surveillance system.

How does the FDA normally hear about side effects?
Right now the FDA uses a voluntary reporting system consisting of individual case safety reports, the majority of which are submitted by healthcare professionals and patients to drug product manufacturers, who then are required to report them to the FDA. Our data are different in that the information is generated by patients themselves, and provide real-time insights about what its like to use medical products over time, like tolerability of the drug and factors that may influence taking the drug as prescribed.

When did PatientsLikeMe’s start gathering information about side effects and adverse events?
We’ve actually been collecting information about patients’ experiences with treatments, including patient-attributed side effects, since we launched the website in 2006. In 2008 we took steps to formalize adverse event reporting by developing a customized version of the FDA’s MedWatch tool for use in a pilot project with our MS community. The pilot set us on a path to develop our future drug safety functionality. By 2009 we had created a fully integrated, standards-based drug safety platform, the first on social media. It enabled industry partners to meet their regulatory obligations.

What’s the future?
It’s pretty exciting! The patient experience can more deeply inform the way medications are regulated. And patient-reported data can ultimately have a greater impact on the way that drugs are developed. This collaboration can lead to all of that.

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