Stem Cells announces new stem cell study for retinal and optic nerve
eye diseases- largest stem cell eye treatment study registered with NIH –
to determine effectiveness of stem cells in ophthalmic disease.
For many patients with serious eye disease, going blind is a constant fear. The loss of vision experienced from retinal or optic nerve problems may be progressive with devastating impact on a person’s ability to live a full life. Treatment with Bone Marrow Derived Stem Cells may hold the key to reversing blindness and restoring vision. But the concern has been whether such stem cell treatments have enough published reports and studies to show effectiveness in a convincing way. MD Stem Cells hopes to help provide that evidence.
MD Stem Cells has been named Collaborator for the new Stem Cell Ophthalmology Treatment Study, abbreviated as SCOTS. Dr. Steven Levy, President of MD Stem Cells, will function as Study Director for the clinical trial expected to continue through August 2017. The Retinal Associates of South Florida is the study Sponsor and Dr. Jeffrey Weiss, retinal surgeon and physician, is the Principle Investigator and provider of the ophthalmic stem cell treatments. SCOTS is being conducted in Florida.
“We are extremely pleased to have helped design and implement this broadly encompassing retinal and optic nerve disease study” Dr. Levy exclaimed. “We believe ours is the largest, most comprehensive registered ophthalmology stem cell study to date. We have taken great care in powering the study and expect to obtain statistically meaningful results. SCOTS is being conducted under an Institutional Review Board whose evaluation was rigorous. We have satisfied every requirement for their approval.”
Conditions eligible for the new study include retinal diseases
such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), myopic macular
degeneration, hereditary retinopathies such as Retinitis Pigmentosa and
Stargardts, as well as selected inflammatory, vascular and traumatic conditions. Optic
nerve diseases considered eligible include glaucoma, ischemic optic
neuropathy, optic atrophy, optic neuritis and some trauma. The
study is focused on the ocular tissue that has sustained damage and its
potential for improvement rather than a specific disease entity.
SCOTS is registered with the National Institutes of Health and listed on their website www.clinicaltrials.gov
with identifier NCT01920867. Patients interested in whether they may
participate and healthcare providers may reach Dr. Levy at email@example.com or 203-423-9494 Eastern Time USA.
MD Stem Cells
412 Main Street, Suite I
Ridgefield, CT 06877 USA
The Role of Patient Funded Clinical Research in
Advancing Medical Care.
Jeffrey N. Weiss, M.D. Steven Levy M.D.
Retina Associates of South Florida MD Stem Cells
Margate, Florida, 33063 Ridgefield, CT 06897
A clinical trial, also called an interventional trial, is a type of research where participants receive a specific intervention that is dictated by a study protocol. The intervention may be a surgical procedure, drug, device, or change to the participants behavior, such as a diet. Clinical trials may compare a new medical or surgical approach to no intervention. There are various sources that provide funding for clinical trials.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH)
The NIH is the largest biomedical funding source in the U.S. There has been a 20% inflation adjusted decline in the NIH budget over the last decade. Approximately 15 – 20 % of grant submissions receive funding and due to government budget sequestration, investigators receive
only 90% of the approved funds. A 2007 U.S. government study found that university faculty members spend approximately 40% of their research time navigating bureaucracy.
A research grant is awarded to an individual at a university, but not to the same individual
when he enters private practice, effectively removing an experienced researcher from
government funding. NIH grants are typically for a 3 year period and end abruptly if not
renewed. In addition, the researcher is unable to shift the funds to another project if the
first project is not successful.
Best has demonstrated that disease advocacy has political outcomes, including direct
benefits, distributive changes and systemic effects. She has shown that advocacy groups
secure gains for their members (direct benefits), that the mobilized groups receive resources
at the expense of the elite political influence (distributive changes) and that such groups can
change the system of political decision making (systemic effects).
Pharmaceutical Companies are commercial enterprises organized to make money. Approximately 75% of clinical trials in medicine are company sponsored. Such funding may introduce bias, as the study design or interpretation is more likely to favor the drug under consideration with the ultimate goal, the attainment of FDA approval. This is understandable
as the time to develop a successful drug is 10 to 15 years and the cost to achieve FDA approval
has successively increased over the decades to approximately 1.2 billion dollars at the present
An orphan disease is defined as any disease affecting up to 200,000 individuals in the US.
There are incentives offered to pharmaceutical companies through the Orphan Drug Act of
1983 to address the rare disease market. However orphan diseases with larger numbers of
patients or those diseases for which there may be less price resistance regarding any successful treatment may draw development efforts in an unfair way.
Like the NIH, non-profits use a panel of expert who decide the worthiness of a particular
grant and determine the awarding of funding. As such, they suffer from the same problem as
Thomas Kuhn has pointed out that breakthrough insights frequently stem from the
intersection of disciplines, not from within the discipline. Grant reviewers are generally within
the same discipline and can’t recognize the new paradigm that may have come from the work of scientists in other fields. They remain committed to the old paradigm that has shaped their
beliefs, which prompted Max Planck to say, “New scientific truth does not triumph by
convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents
eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” Also like the NIH,
nonprofit organizations award grants to institutions, not to individual researchers in private
Private Funded Research
This includes a broad pool of donors with a wide range of passions that may speed progress
by investing in bold ideas, gambles, and risky projects. Decisions may be made quickly, not encumbered by large bureaucracies. A sense of urgency can be respected.
Critics argue that gifts privatize research and steer resources towards areas of personal
interest. Supporters argue that it is the personal choice of the funder whether money is spent on personal goods or personal research. Personally funded projects have a vested interest in
solving the chosen problem and unlike pharmaceutically funded research, are not subject to the profit motive or market forces.
Patient Funded Foundations
It is not uncommon for many patients with rare diseases or their families to set up support groups, particularly with the ready availability of social networking. In some cases the only
research foundations focused on particularly rare diseases have been initiated by patients and families affected by those diseases. There are over 7000 rare genetic diseases impacting 8-10%
of the US population or about 25 million patients. When such a disease afflicts a high profile
or financially successful individual, or their family member, that particular disease can receive disproportionate attention and support.
Patient Funded Research
In this model, the patient pays for participating in the clinical research. In terms of the
research, this is similar to the Private Funded model discussed above. Less common condition
and risky proposals may be studied, unencumbered by bureaucracy and coupled with the ability
to make quick decisions.
Critics argue that desperate patients can be exploited and should not pay for clinical
research. Clearly, people with resources decide how to use their resources. Not allowing
patients to pay for research would restrict their ability to use their own resources as they see fit.
Unlike other types of funding, patient funded research is subject to market demands. If a
study is too expensive, there will be less participants, unlike the situation where the funding is provided for the patient to participate in the research. The self-funding patient will be more
inclined to demand information thus providing a more thought out informed consent than in a
study where free care is provided, as they want to receive their “money’s worth.” One can
argue that free medical care may be considered an exploitative inducement to participate in research.
Patient funded studies are generally for conditions not being investigated by NIH or pharmaceutical studies and tend towards novel approaches for less prevalent medical problems.
Patient funded research has been criticized for, by its nature, it eliminates the participation
of individuals who cannot afford to participate. One can make the same criticism for the other funding sources- so unless the study pays the patient for participation, including travel costs, individuals may be unable to take the required time off from work, nor have the financial and personal support structure in place to engage in a study. Since the purpose of a research study
is to determine whether the clinical intervention is of benefit, and such interventions may carry some medical risk, one could argue that aligning financial cost with participation creates a
higher level of patient engagement, risk benefit assessment and therefore informed consent.
In addition, the ultimate benefits of basic and clinical research accrue to all individuals with a particular disease irrespective of financial wherewithal.
Does profit taint the research? One could argue that all human activity creates bias,
otherwise there would be no activity. Unless the research is self-funded, researcher are
always paid by some funding source, otherwise they could not perform the research.
Frequently, both NIH and pharmaceutical funding is proportional to the number of subjects
the researcher enrolls in the study, which some may consider to be unethical. In this respect,
the patient funded study differs little from other types of studies. As pointed out previously,
it is in the researcher’s interest to keep the patient cost at a reasonable level in order to
encourage patient entry.
This paper is a discussion of actual medical studies and does not speak to the situation in
which a private physician requires a patient to pay for treatment with an off-label remedy for
which no protocol has been written, there is no Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval, and
no data is being collected.
The patient funded study, that has a detailed protocol, has undergone IRB review, is listed
with ClinicalTrials.gov (NIH), and is publishing results, whether positive or negative, is an important form of research allowing the testing of ideas that would otherwise languish due to
a lack of funding.
All human endeavors require work and effort and therefore have financial costs. There is a
range of how removed the patients are from those costs depending on the research payment methodology.
In the case of publicly funded clinical research, the patient may have low awareness of
the cost of the clinical research as the funds are taken from the general tax base of whose
allocation individuals have minimal awareness. In publicly funded research the cost of an individual’s participation is spread out over millions of people and therefore the percentage
of cost that is the responsibility of an individual patient is low. This low awareness of source
and percentage cost of participation removes these particular financial considerations from the informed consent process.
On the other end of the spectrum patient funded research causes high awareness of the cost
of that individual’s participation and causes a high percentage of the cost to be the responsibility
of the participating patient. This high awareness enters the informed consent process as an additional consideration as patients weigh the potential personal benefit of participation.
This causes a pause in this process, even for the wealthiest individuals.
Pharmaceutical clinical research would fall in-between with the actual costs being deferred
to a later time, but still assumed by the individual patient needing the successfully proven care depending on the health insurance methodology.
In considering the different methods of funding of clinical research, the overall benefit of properly done clinical research, from whichever funding source, should be kept in mind. All clinical research and patient care creates costs which ultimately accrue to individuals in the
society. It is only a matter of how directly those costs are felt by individuals.