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LePage, medical and economic officials tout benefits of clinical trials

Bangor Daily News/Christopher Cousins | Bangor Daily News/Christopher Cousins
Bangor Daily News/Christopher Cousins | Bangor Daily News/Christopher Cousins
Gov. Paul LePage holds up one of his business cards, which says "Open for Business" on the back, before giving it to John Castellani, CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, during a press conference at the State House on April 19, 2013.
By Christopher Cousins, BDN Staff

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage joined with medical and business leaders Friday at the State House to tout not only the public health benefits of clinical trials, but their economic effect on the state as well.

The press event centered around the release of a report called “Research in Your Backyard, Developing Cures, Creating Jobs,” which was funded by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, otherwise known as PhRMA. The report states that since 1999, there have been more than 550 clinical trials conducted in Maine, the majority of which involved asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, mental illness and stroke.

Clinical trials are part of the testing and research phase in the development of new drugs or medical devices. The trials, which are required in a medication’s development, help drug makers understand things such as side effects and proper dosages. Individuals volunteer to take part in tests of new drugs or procedures.

LePage said his own mother-in-law became involved in a clinical trial in the 1990s after being diagnosed with an incurable disease and is still alive today.

“If it wasn’t for that trial we would have lost her an awful long time ago,” said LePage. “In fact, our children would have never known their grandmother. … It’s very important that these trials go forward.”

John Castellani, PhRMA’s president and CEO, said many Maine hospitals and health organizations are involved in clinical trials with biopharmaceutical research companies, including the Maine Center for Cancer Medicine, Maine Medical Center, Mercy Hospital, Maine Research Associates, Northeast Cardiology Associates, Penobscot Bay Medical Center and Penobscot Bay Neurology. There are currently numerous trials ongoing in Maine, including 57 that are still recruiting local patients.

In Bangor, for example, 129 clinical trials have been conducted since 1999, 81 of which involved the nation’s six most debilitating chronic diseases. Of those, 13 are still recruiting patients.

Partnerships like those have supported thousands of jobs and pumped millions of dollars into the state’s economy, according to PhRMA.

The report referenced a 2008 study by Archstone Consulting that found the industry supported nearly 12,000 jobs throughout Maine. Employees working directly for the companies were paid almost $120 million, leading to more than $25 million in federal taxation and $4.1 million in state taxation, according to that study.

Also present at the press conference were Maine State Chamber of Commerce President Dana Connors; Gail Baillargeon, CEO of Acadia Clinical Research; Tom Sotir, a clinical trial patient at the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care; and Portland Regional Chamber CEO Chris Hall.

LePage, as he often does, framed the issue in terms of jobs and economic development, making his point with an off-the-cuff presentation to Castellani.

“Not only am I proud to be here and participate today, but I want to make sure that you have my card before you leave,” said LePage, giving some business cards to Castellani. “I’m going to give you a few more because you can pass it on to some of your colleagues in the industry.”

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