Metropolitan medicine

Clinical trials offer patients more options

Longview News-Journal
April 23, 2006
Author: Patrina A. Bostic

Diagnostic Clinic of Longview is offering a clinical research program that gives patients local access to treatments they might not otherwise have.

"Since most clinical research has been confined to larger, metropolitan areas, this is a very exciting new service the Diagnostic Clinic can offer to Longview and the surrounding communities," said Sharon Coppinger, clinic supervisor, who has worked in research for 10 years.

Diagnostic Clinic of Longview Center for Clinical Research offers clinical trial services for national or international pharmaceutical or biotech companies, enabling the clinic to offer numerous studies to patients, including HIV, diabetes and cardiovascular medications and infant formula for fussy babies.

The clinic tests drugs for which pharmaceutical companies are seeking FDA approval or that are already FDA approved, but still need clinical trials.

Diagnostic Clinic physicians act as clinical investigators and most of the volunteers for the studies are the doctors' patients.

One benefit of the program is that volunteers receive treatment with new drugs that might be more effective in treating their disease or condition than standard medications or products, Coppinger said.

"They get more detailed attention and extended care. Today ... physicians are being pressed to see more and more patients in a lesser amount of time," said Angel Ribô, director of the research center at Diagnostic Clinic, citing another benefit. "In research, a patient's visit with their coordinator can last at a minimum of 30 minutes to a couple of hours, so the patient gets a lot of specialized attention."

The research center opened a year ago and began operating full time in August. Clinic officials are applying for a National Institutes of Health grant to become a federally designated clinical trials unit.

The center sees about 50 patients who are participating in more than a dozen studies and plans to begin hypertension and Parkinson's disease studies, as well as an ankle sprain study for a pain patch, this year.

"We are extremely pleased. This growth that we are experiencing is unprecedented," said Ribô, also a physician assistant.

He said patients are glad they don't have to drive to Shreveport or Dallas to take part in a study, he said.

"Persons with severe and life-threatening illnesses may receive treatments that offer them hope," Coppinger said. "Since (volunteers) do not pay anything for participating in a clinical trial, they may receive treatment that they typically would not be able to afford."

Participants, however, must understand that clinical trials are designed to answer scientific questions rather than provide medical treatment, Coppinger said. Also, clinical trials are not a substitute for regular medical care, she said.

Every clinical trial is different and requires a certain number of volunteers, usually from multiple sites across the United States and sometimes from other countries. Each site is asked to enroll a certain number of patients, registering as few as four people per study or as high as 25 or more.

People who participate in a study agree to it and are either referred by physicians or are informed about trials through newspaper advertisement. The sponsor of the study, whether a pharmaceutical or biotech company, reviews and collects the data from participating research centers then compiles the findings and submits them to the FDA for review.

To sign up for a study, call (903) 238-8854.

DCOL of Longview