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Crowdfunding raises millions for quack cancer remedies, like coffee enemas

Enlarge / Bottles of herbal oils and dried plants used in alternative medicine. (credit: Getty | Martin Norris)

Doctors and clinics that peddle unproven, potentially harmful treatments to desperate cancer patients are pocketing millions thanks to donations collected on popular crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe. That’s according to data published recently in BMJ.

In just the UK, crowdfunding sites amassed around $10 million since 2012 for cancer treatments with an alternative-treatment element, the data indicate. Those figures were collected by the nonprofit organization the Good Thinking Society, which promotes scientific skepticism and rational thinking. Unfortunately, the group did not provide a similar tally for US-based donations. Earlier research had found that cancer patients who delay or skip conventional treatments in favor of “alternative” treatments have as much as a 5.7-fold increased risk of dying within five years than those who stick with conventional medicine.

Most of the crowdfunded treatments were administered at clinics in places such as the US, Germany, and Mexico, the Good Thinking Society found. The treatments included unproven “peptide vaccines” said to work against cancer cells, experimental immunotherapies, vitamin and mineral infusions, flax-seed and dangerous coffee enemas, various spa treatments, and dietary interventions, such as juice drinks. The treatments often cost patients anywhere from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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