Hospital to test innovative treatments on Valley patients

The Rio Grande Valley has some of the highest rates of diabetes.

"We are probably the center, the area with the most diabetes in the country, diabetes is almost at 30 percent," Dr. Marcel Twahirwa, medical director of the Joslin Diabetes

Center at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, said.

Dr. Twahirwa said for over a year, the center has been conducting clinical trials to develop new treatments for the disease.

A new partnership between Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, Microsoft, PhRMA and the National Clinical Trial Network plans to bring a massive scale of clinical trials to theRio Grande Valley.

It TMs the first time something like this has happened in the country. To begin with so for this to be actually happening in the Valley for the first time in the country is a big deal," Dr. Twahirwa said.

The reason the Valley was chosen as one of five locations for the trials boils down to diversity.

Only 1 percent of current clinical trials are done on Hispanics.

"You want to know if a drug is going to metabolize the same way. If a disease is going to process the same way so you need to bring populations in," Dr. Gary Puckrein, president of the National Minority Quality Forum said.

Dr. Puckrein said in order for pharmaceutical companies to get FDA approval they must do clinical trials to prove safety and effectiveness.

Many of the diseases like diabetes affect a large percent of minority populations of Hispanics, so it makes sense to test new treatments on those populations.

Efficacy and safety of those medications haven TMt been tested in diverse populations, he said.

Clinical trials can last anywhere from seven to 15 years and are done at little to no cost to patients.

Right now, South Texans have very limited access to these innovative treatments.

But the partnership would create a Research Institute at Renaissance which would give people access to life saving treatments that were not previously available in this area.

It opens the doors to finding out how we can really take better care of diabetic patients, Dr. Twahirwa said.

The partnership is expected to be finalized sometime in October.

Hospital administrators have not released a list of diseases to be studied but that list will most likely include diabetes and cancer.