Drug Trials on Cutting Edge At Pinehurst Medical Clinic
Pinehurst Medical Clinic is in the midst of conducting innovative clinical trials for treatments for a wide range of diseases and conditions.
The clinical trial program was launched four years ago by Dr. Michael Soboeiro, an internal medicine physician. It has grown significantly in a relatively short period of time. Originally comprised of a handful of trials and one staff member, it has grown to eight employees who are running more than 20 studies. Dr. Pat Simpson, a cardiologist, is now the medical director of the program.
"It's been a wild ride," said Tamara Owens, director of clinical trials at Pinehurst Medical Clinic (PMC). "It's hard to imagine going from a few trials to 20."
The trials include just about every major medical specialty except oncology. Owens hopes to bring a lot of different medical groups into the fold to participate in the studies. So far, Pinehurst Neurology, Sanford Cardio-logy, and the FirstHealth Cardiovas-cular and Thoracic Center have signed on.
"We're hoping to bring in other practices to clinical trials who don't have the exposure or the infrastructure to do it on their own," Owens said.
So far, the most cutting-edge trial under way deals with patients suffering from moderate to severe Crohn's disease.
Crohn's is a chronic auto-immune disorder that causes inflammation of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Patients usually suffer from abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea, and are forced to follow a strict diet. The trial involves the infusion of adult stem cells to repair the damaged lining.
Denise McRae, clinical research manager at PMC, said the trial is very promising.
"It is very exciting," said McRae, who has been in medical research for 15 years. "It has the potential to put the patients into remission and improve their quality of life significantly."
Owens noted that PMC is the only private practice conducting the Crohn's trial. Duke University selected the clinic to conduct the trial because of its reputation.
"The fact we've brought something like this to the community is pretty cutting edge," Owens said.
The clinic is also conducting two trials to find alternative drugs to Coumadin, which is an anti-coagulant used in patients who suffer from atrial fibrillation among other conditions. Some patients cannot take the drug for various reasons. Trials for diabetes and a vaccine to prevent staph infections after major surgeries are also being studied.
Participating in the trials offers a multitude of benefits to the patients, according to Owens and McRae.
There is no cost to the patient to be a part of the trials, and in many cases they are reimbursed for the visit. McRae said it's a good alternative for people to consider in this weak economy. A lot of times, the trials count for regular checkups with a doctor, making it more convenient.
Because the staff is required to provide a lot of information to the participants, so it becomes a very educational experience for them.
"It allows the patients to learn more about their disease," McRae said.
A medical background is not necessary for someone to be involved with the staff.
Owens said the PMC team is comprised of nurses, physician assistants and other personnel, "spanning the spectrum" so to speak.
McRae and Owens also stressed the importance of teamwork within the clinical trials department. The staff takes a collaborative approach to the trials and serves a "security blanket" of sorts for the participants.
"It's a comfort to the patient to know they always have someone to call," Owens said.
With the staff being smaller than many trials at larger hospitals, it fosters a more intimate relationship with the patients. Plus, the location in Pinehurst offers convenience.
So far, Owens has been pleased with the results of the trials and the comments she has received from the participants. She hopes the program will continue to grow and find new treatment options for patients.
"We've gotten a lot of positive feedback from the community," Owens said.
"It goes to show you that there's more interest than ever. We grow all of the time."
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
More like this story