Clinical trial research benefits Iowans

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April 1, 2014 | 1:10 am

By Jeffrey Bond and Raymond Hohl

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A new report compiled by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) — “Research In Your Backyard: Pharmaceutical Clinical Trials in Iowa” — contains some impressive numbers about clinical trials conducted by our member companies and other biopharmaceutical research firms in the Hawkeye State:

l More than 1,100 trials of new medicines have been conducted since 1999.

l More than 570 of the trials target the nation’s most debilitating chronic diseases: asthma, heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and mental illnesses.

l More than 120 trials aimed at chronic conditions are recruiting patients.

The full magnitude of these statistics becomes clear when you put them into perspective. The fact is, clinical trials are beneficial to Iowa patients, the state’s economy and the overall advancement of science.

The focus of so many new medicine clinical trials on the most serious chronic diseases is important to patients in the state because:

l More than 10 percent of Iowa’s adults had asthma in 2009, as did nearly 7 percent of its children.

l More than 17,000 new Iowa cancer cases will be diagnosed this year and 6,410 victims will die.

l About 7 percent of the state’s adults have been diagnosed with diabetes, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

l More than 6,800 residents died from heart disease in 2007 and 1,680 succumbed to stroke.

l Nearly 105,000 of the state’s adults and about 32,000 of Iowa’s children live with serious mental illnesses.

It’s important to know that 125 ongoing trials of new medicines for those chronic diseases are still recruiting patients in Iowa. For some disease sufferers still seeking treatments, trials of new drugs could be a therapeutic option to explore and discuss with their doctors.

Clinical trials have benefited the Hawkeye economy because biopharmaceutical companies hire local researchers to conduct the trials. At a time when clinical tests account for 45 to

75 percent of the average $1.2 billion cost of developing a new drug, the trials provide the state’s medical schools, hospitals and clinical research centers the opportunity to be involved in cutting-edge research.

Institutions from all over Iowa are conducting clinical trials in collaboration with biopharmaceutical companies. These relationships are enhanced by the basic and translational research strengths at the University of Iowa’s Colleges of Medicine and Public Health, its NIH-funded Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences, and the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Critically important are the community-based Northeast Iowa Medical Education Foundation founded in Waterloo, Siouxland Hematology-Oncology Associates in Sioux City, Des Moines-based Iowa Heart Center, Iowa Diabetes and Endocrinology Research Center in Des Moines, Iowa Health System headquartered in Des Moines, and Nylen Cancer Center in Sioux City.

In aggregate, these and other Iowa groups support the invaluable collective expertise that draws the biopharmaceutical companies to Iowa and affords exceptional clinical research opportunities for Iowans, both as patients and members of the requisite workforce needed to perform these trials.

Meanwhile, important contributions to the advancement of science and, ultimately, patient health care are being made. Some of the medications that have been tested in Iowa by companies and their local collaborators are new-generation biotechnology treatments, which might help to improve our ability to predict and prevent disease.

The nation’s biopharmaceutical research companies may have only a limited brick-and-mortar presence in the state, but they have a decisively positive impact on patient care and the Iowa economy. Our industry is proud to partner with a variety of research facilities throughout the state. The state’s biomedical research infrastructure is being used to develop new medicines for a wide array of diseases and medical conditions.

Jeffrey Bond is a senior vice president at Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Comments: jtrewhitt@phrma.org. Raymond Hohl holds several positions at the University of Iowa, including Associate Director, Clinical and Translational Research, Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center. Comments: raymond-hohl@uiowa.edu

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