LAFAYETTE, La. (ABiz) – Over the years, Lafayette General Medical Center has been working to establish itself as a world-class medical treatment center by placing an emphasis on improving medical education, and now it is taking the next step by participating in clinical trials for advanced medical treatments and studies to help improve patient care and disease prevention across Acadiana.

“Sometimes, we have these patients that, because of their disease, we have exhausted our efforts on the current protocols for treatment,” says Craig Ortego, vice president for cancer services at Acadiana Cancer Center at LGMC. “Clinical trials give them an opportunity to maybe try something else that we’re trying to prove will work. And a lot of these patients do get a lot of success, and it either prolongs their life or gets them to a remission form.”

Clinical trials can offer several benefits, like access to newer treatments and drugs that might not otherwise be available, and also help expand knowledge about the best ways to treat specific diseases. Additionally, they can provide patients the opportunity to receive care closer to home without having to worry about traveling out of town or out of state for treatment or the expenses that come with it.

Interest for participating in these trials begins when pharmaceutical companies try to get new drugs approved by going to hospital sites like Lafayette General to determine if they have the number of patients necessary for the trials, after which the process of screening patients for the trials begins that includes meeting all of the regulatory, financial and legal requirements necessary for the trial to be active, which means it is ready to accept patients.

“That’s where the work starts,” says Ortego. “Once it’s activated that’s when our employees start looking at our database of patients and pulling out which ones meet that criteria. When that happens then we communicate with the patients and explain the potential benefi ts and the potential risks that are there, and we let the patient make a choice.”

The hospital currently has an active clinical trial to study community-acquired bacterial pneumonia that is being led by Dr. Brad Broussard, who specializes in pulmonary medicine at Lafayette General’s Intensive Care Unit.

“An little over a year ago, Lafayette General undertook an initiative to become more involved in clinical trials, and since then there’s been an increase in the amount of activity,” says Broussard. “We applied for, were accepted and initiated a clinical trial on an antibiotic for community-acquired pneumonia. At the same point in time we’re in talks about different clinical trials involving everything from sedation for procedures to treatment of severe respiratory failure in the ICU.”

According to Broussard, community acquired pneumonia occurs in people who haven’t been in a health care setting in the last three months, which is important considering community-acquired pneumonia affects a large number of people and is a major cause of death in the United States, particularly in the elderly population. The antibiotics that are currently used to treat it are becoming increasingly less effective due to the bacteria adapting and developing resistance to standard antibiotics.

The antibiotic this particular trial is testing is called Solithromycin, which is a member of a relatively new class of antibiotics that shows great activity against bacteria that cause community-acquired pneumonia.

“Antibiotic developments classically have been slow and tedious; all drug development is slow and tedious,” says Broussard. “So anytime there’s a new drug or antibiotic on the horizon that shows a great deal of promise and activity, it’s a very important endeavor to do whatever is possible to help study that drug and, if appropriate, help get it to market so that it’s available for use.”

Broussard’s trial is in Phase 3, which means it is in the final confirmation of safety and efficacy and is given to large groups of patients with pneumonia-like symptoms, including cough and fever, to confirm its effectiveness, monitor side effects, compare it to commonly used treatments and collect information that will allow it to be used safely.

“I think overall there’s been a vision and evolution in the health system over the last several years, and part of that has been the partnership with LSU and UHC, where we’ve been more involved in medical education,” says Broussard. “The system itself has expanded to include partnerships with other hospitals, and there’s such a need for this pursuit of research in the assistance of clinical trials that this was another area where they felt we had the personnel, we had the patient base and we had enough individuals with interest that they wanted to tap into that.”

[This article originally appeared in the January 2015 edition of Acadiana Business Magazine and on]