Startups, Patient Engagement

83% of patients willing to donate leftover blood samples to research

An independent study commissioned by startup iSpecimen has found that 83 percent of patients would allow the leftovers of their blood samples, drawn for clinical purposes, to be used for medical research.

Patients are getting more engaged in their care processes, which has led to an interesting new trend: We’re now seeing a more philanthropic patient.

But not just in terms of donating dollars: Patients are willing to participate more and more in research, as Boston startup iSpecimen has found in an interesting independent analysis of patients participate in medical research.

“The driving force behind this is for us to figure out, do patients really want to give something of themselves for healthcare research?” iSpecimen CEO Christopher Ianelli said in a phone interview.

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Specifically, iSpecimen surveyed 400 adults on how willing they’d be to allow their remnant clinical specimens to be used in medical research. That is, when hospitals draw blood samples for patient testing, often some of the vials go unused and are discarded. iSpecimen surveyed how many patients would be willing to donate these extras to science.

The study found that 83 percent of Americans would allow their de-identified clinical remnants, and associated data, for medical research. Also, notably, 65 percent would consent to an extra vial of blood to be drawn exclusively for research purposes. Here’s how the breakdown looks:

There were a few concerns among patients, however: They were worried over who might actually profit from their sample donation, and of accidental identity breach.

Chicago market research firm Lab42 created a survey that was balanced to the U.S. population in terms of gender, age, income and ethnicity.

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A Deep-dive Into Specialty Pharma

A specialty drug is a class of prescription medications used to treat complex, chronic or rare medical conditions. Although this classification was originally intended to define the treatment of rare, also termed “orphan” diseases, affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the US, more recently, specialty drugs have emerged as the cornerstone of treatment for chronic and complex diseases such as cancer, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.

iSpecimen wrote this white paper, of course, because it’s is building a sort of next-gen version of biobanking: iSpecimen sources unused clinical samples, storing all of their associated health data on the cloud, and then doles it out to researchers on demand. It doesn’t store samples like a typical repository, but creates incentives for hospitals to do so – and then works as a middleman to get these blood, urine and other such samples to the researchers.

So, clearly, knowledge that patients are willing to donate these samples validates iSpecimen’s very existence. However, many other companies are taking a similar approach to patient philanthropy: Take DNA sequencing company 23andMe which, on top of providing ancestry and basic health data from genetic screens, is now polling its customers on their health records. The idea here, also, is to repurpose samples for medical science.

In the case of blood draws, looks like patients are pretty willing.

[Image courtesy of Flickr user Rosemary]