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:
- What we’ve learned: finding information and treatment awareness
- What we’ve learned: starting, experiencing and stopping new treatments
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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