Guest opinion: Drug trials aid Montana patients, economy

2013-10-04T00:00:00Z Guest opinion: Drug trials aid Montana patients, economyBy SHARON PETERSON The Billings Gazette
October 04, 2013 12:00 am  • 

More than 800 clinical trials of new medicines have been conducted in Montana since 1999, thanks to the biopharmaceutical industry and the expertise of facilities such as the Billings Clinic, Frontier Cancer Center and Blood Institute, Montana Health Research Institute and Clinical Research Group of Montana.

A new report, “Research in Your Backyard: Pharmaceutical Clinical Trials in Montana,” shows that biopharmaceutical research companies have collaborated with these institutions and others in conducting their clinical trials.

Montana has a respected biomedical research infrastructure and the companies have leveraged this strong environment.

Targeting cancer

About half of the medications clinically tested in the state have targeted cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, asthma and mental illnesses. The biopharmaceutical companies and their local collaborators have targeted their efforts to meet the most urgent health needs, and it’s important to note that nearly 200 clinical trials of new chronic disease medications are still active and recruiting patients. Some patients may still seek treatments that are best for them and a clinical trial of a potential new medicine could be a therapeutic option to discuss with health care providers.

Local research facilities conducting clinical trials for biopharmaceutical research companies are also helping to raise awareness of, and interest in, the state’s clinical research. Their outreach includes educational programs with Native Americans and other rural residents. In fact, the Billings Clinic clinical trial brochure has been translated into the Crow and Northern Cheyenne languages.

With biopharmaceutical research companies working with hospitals and contract research organizations in Billings, Bozeman, Missoula, Butte, Kalispell, Great Falls, Hamilton and other communities, the economic benefits of clinical trials stretch across Montana. Talented local researchers are engaged in cutting-edge biopharmaceutical research.

In the cancer arena, there are more than 30 clinical trials of new medicines still underway in Montana and in Billings. Biopharmaceutical research companies are collaborating on cancer trials with such facilities as the Billings Clinic Cancer Center and Frontier Cancer Center and Blood Institute.

Cancer medicine clinical trials are also underway through the Montana Cancer Consortium at the Bozeman Deaconess Hospital Cancer Center, the Glacier View Research Institute in Kalispell, St. James Community Hospital Cancer Treatment Center in Butte, St. Peter’s Community Hospital in Helena and St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula.

Preventive biotechnology

Some of the medications being clinically tested in Montana are cutting-edge biotechnology therapies, which have the strong potential to offer safer and more effective treatments to patients. We’re also trying to master the techniques of biotechnology to improve our ability to predict and even prevent disease.

Clinical research is crucial to the process of developing new medicines. Clinical trials account for up to seven of the 10 to 15 years required to develop a new drug and 45 to 75 percent of the average $1.2 billion cost of developing a new treatment. Clinical trials involve thousands of volunteer patients in three phases of testing and the generation of tens of thousands of pages of technical and scientific data.

The data provide information needed by the Food and Drug Administration to determine pharmaceutical product safety and effectiveness and help regulators decide whether medicines should be approved for patient use.

Biopharmaceutical research companies have been partners with the state’s research facilities in the development of new medicines for many years. And it has been a fruitful relationship, offering a variety of benefits to patients and the companies’ research collaborators. Agriculture and tourism remain Montana’s economic anchors, but biopharmaceutical research is also an active contributor to the state’s economic and physical health.

Sharon Peterson of Billings is

executive director of the Montana

BioScience Alliance.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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