March 2000

Hospital-based Research Center Offers Efficient Clinical Trials


Center hopes to join with other market-based organizations for multiple-site trials One of the few community hospital-based research centers in the country operates on the campus of St. Joseph Medical Center, Tacoma, Wash. Established in December 1997, the Franciscan Health System Research Center has the ability to perform a full range of clinical trials. Trials can usually be completed more quickly and cost effectively than at traditional academic research centers while maintaining high ethical standards. "We offer greater efficiency because we are well organized and not as complex as traditional academic research centers, and we have easy access to a large base of inpatients and outpatients," said Mark Nelson, RPh, coordinator of the research center. "The majority of research sites have to advertise to recruit enough patients to conduct a trial, but the broad base of Franciscan Health System patients enables us to quickly enroll patients who meet the requirements for clinical trials in virtually any medical specialty." The research center’s experienced staff has completed trials in oncology, infectious disease, emergency medicine, nephrology, internal medicine and many other specialties. In addition, the center now has the ability to conduct trials of nutraceuticals and protocols used in integrative medicine. "Nutraceuticals are supplements and are not required to go through the same trials as pharmaceuticals, but physicians and practitioners need to know more about their effectiveness, proper dosages and potential interactions," said Nelson. To facilitate such trials, Milt Hammerly, MD, director of integrative medicine for Catholic Health Initiatives, is now associated with the research center staff. The fact that the Franciscan Health System Research Center is part of Catholic Health Initiatives is of interest to manufacturers looking for multiple-site trials of new products. "We would like to help other market-based organizations establish the ability to participate in clinical trials," said Nelson. "They can realize several benefits, including a new source of revenue and reduced costs through free trial medications. In addition, the ability to take part in research projects can help market-based organizations recruit new physicians and build stronger relationships with their existing physicians." Most important, participating in clinical trials helps patients who may benefit from the new treatments. "Every project that we do is driven by patient benefit," said Nelson. "We don’t do what we do for profit, but to potentially improve patient care." Nelson believes the research model established by the Franciscan Health System Research Center is catching the attention of more corporations and institutions that provide research grants. "Companies want rapid, accurate, high-quality data, and we can provide that because we have such excellent access to patients," he said. "We believe that an ability to provide multiple-site trials will attract even more research grants."