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Healthy for Georgia

Clinical trials have economic benefits

Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011 10:27 AM
Last updated 11:06 PM
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A new study highlights Georgia’s role in testing new medicines in health facilities across the state.

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Alison Diamond (left), a registered nurse in Oncology Clinical Research, and Laura Logue, a nurse practitioner, talk with patient Francis Nitz at the Georgia Health Sciences University Cancer Clinical Research Center. Nitz is participating in clinical trials for cancer. Thousands of clinical trials have been conducted in Georgia this year.  Chris Thelen/Staff
Chris Thelen/Staff
Alison Diamond (left), a registered nurse in Oncology Clinical Research, and Laura Logue, a nurse practitioner, talk with patient Francis Nitz at the Georgia Health Sciences University Cancer Clinical Research Center. Nitz is participating in clinical trials for cancer. Thousands of clinical trials have been conducted in Georgia this year.

More than 3,600 trials were conducted in the state this year – or are still ongoing. There are about 400 clinical trials recruiting patients for the six chronic diseases that are among the most debilitating, including asthma, cancer, diabetes stroke, mental illness and heart disease.

One reason Georgia does so many tests is it has plenty of patients with those conditions, and they’re willing to participate, according to Jeff Trewhitt, the author of the study and director of public affairs for its sponsor, the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America.

The pace of trials in the Peach State equals Illinois, which has one-third more people.

The lion’s share are conducted in metro Atlanta, but other cities have multiple trials ongoing, such as 23 in Athens, 59 in Augusta, 34 in Savannah and 27 in Macon.

Those trials, funded with money from drug companies, contributes to Georgia’s $11.1 billion biopharmaceutical industry, which employed 55,000 people in the state in 2008, according to the report.

That’s in addition to government and nonprofit grants that also support research. For instance, the University of Georgia announced that a scientist at its College of Pharmacy is working on skin cancer treatments funded by the American Cancer Society.

Some of those facilities doing private drug trials include the Northeast Georgia Cancer Center in Athens, South Coast Imaging Center, Summit Cancer Care, Aeroallergy Research Laboratories and St. Joseph/Candler and Memorial hospitals in Savannah. The Georgia Health Sciences University in Augusta is a major player.Others in the city include Kidney Care Associates and Southern Clinical Research & Management.

Besides having ample patients, Georgia has experienced facilities that can handle the complexities of trials for the new generation of medicines.

“The pharmaceutical industry knows the institutions in Georgia and is able to rely on them,” Trewhitt said.

And that’s the way the universities, hospitals and clinics like it.

“Certainly, clinical trials have a significant economic impact on our community and state and, importantly, they have a dramatic impact on the lives of individuals,” said Dr. Mark Hamrick, senior vice president for research at Georgia Health Sciences University. “We constantly strive to offer the most innovative therapies to patients by offering trials that hold the promise of better treatment, such as stem cell therapies to reduce the damage of a stroke and new ways to deliver powerful drugs that target ovarian cancer.”

Trewhitt said the reason for the report is to encourage lawmakers to continue to provide the business climate that makes working in Georgia attractive to drug companies. He said no specific legislative request for additional tax breaks, liability limitations or other perks are being proposed in conjunction with it.


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