Health Care

Treatment on Trial

by Wynce Nolley

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...

Dr. Brad Broussard is the principal investigator for the Community-Acquired Bacterial Pneumonia study at LGMC.

Photo by Robin May

Lafayette General expands its medical reach with clinical trials.

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 nbecome more involved in clinical trials, and since then there’s been an nincrease in the amount of activity,” says Broussard. “We applied for, nwere accepted and initiated a clinical trial on an antibiotic for ncommunity-acquired pneumonia. At the same point in time we’re in talks nabout different clinical trials involving everything from sedation for nprocedures to treatment of severe respiratory failure in the ICU.”

Accordingn to Broussard, communityacquired pneumonia occurs in people who haven’t nbeen in a health care setting in the last three months, which is nimportant considering communityacquired pneumonia affects a large numbern of people and is a major cause of death in the United States, nparticularly in the elderly population. The antibiotics that are ncurrently used to treat it are becoming increasingly less effective due nto the bacteria adapting and developing resistance to standard nantibiotics.

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

“Antibioticn developments classically have been slow and tedious; all drug ndevelopment is slow and tedious,” says Broussard. “So anytime there’s a nnew drug or antibiotic on the horizon that shows a great deal of promisen and activity, it’s a very important endeavour to do whatever is npossible to help study that drug and, if appropriate, help get it to nmarket so that it’s available for use.”

Broussard’sn trial is in Phase 3, which means it is in the fi nal confi rmation of nsafety and effi cacy and is given to large groups of patients with npneumonia-like symptoms, including cough and fever, to confi rm its neffectiveness, monitor side effects, compare it to commonly used ntreatments and collect information that will allow it to be used safely.

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