Originally created 12/20/97

Study abuses alleged



A second investigation of drug experiments using veterans reportedly uncovered a long list of serious violations in studies done by two former Medical College of Georgia professors.

Dr. Bruce I. Diamond, one of the professors, pleaded guilty Tuesday to 53 state charges including bribery, theft by taking, unlawfully prescribing drugs and practicing medicine without a license.

He was sentenced to five years in prison, followed by 10 years of probation, and fined $125,000.

The other professor, Dr. Richard L. Borison, indicted with Dr. Diamond in February, has pleaded innocent to similar charges. Dr. Diamond has agreed to testify against Dr. Borison if that case goes to trial and to cooperate if asked by other investigators.

A U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs board of investigation report released Thursday to an Atlanta newspaper concluded that vulnerable patients were coerced to take part in experiments with promises of money; personnel without medical training were given signed prescription pads and allowed to order controlled substances; and some psychiatric patients were enrolled in experiments without being told of the potential risks.

The VA in July opened its second probe into the clinical trials conducted on patients at the VA Medical Centers in Augusta after its first investigation found few serious infractions despite sworn testimony from several VA doctors and employees.

The report contained a number of recommendations for changing and implementing policies to safeguard patients, and those have now been put in place, said Augusta VA spokeswoman Rosalie Bell.

She was not able to provide details of the changes Friday afternoon. This should conclude the VA's internal investigation into the work of Dr. Borison and Dr. Diamond, she said.

Several former research assistants testified that Dr. Borison and Dr. Diamond enrolled as many patients as possible in lucrative pharmaceutical studies without regard for patient health.

"I just felt like they could have gotten better care than they did," Angela Thuey, a former staff member, told investigators.

One psychiatric patient who "probably wasn't a very good candidate" for a study was talked into a study and soon tried to commit suicide by stepping in front of a bus, the newspaper said. Both of the patient's legs were broken, a former staffer testified.

A review of medical charts by investigators also showed that doctors never followed up on a bladder tumor found in one patient to determine whether it was cancerous.