L.A. VA HOSPITAL: Beleaguered Research Program Makes Progress
Having shouldered the task of "restoring trust in the disgraced veterans hospital in West Los Angeles," Dr. Marguerite Hays appears to be making headway and is credited with "turning around" its research program, the Los Angeles Times reports. Four months ago, the Department of Veterans Affairs ordered the research program at the L.A. facility -- with 1,056 beds, the VA's largest -- to shut down amidst allegations of ethics violations. Today, many anticipate the newly proposed ethics measures may serve as "a model program that other VAs could imitate." Those proposals include forming a special safety panel to monitor studies involving patients with mental illnesses, reducing the number of placebos used in studies involving sick patients and cutting back drug company-sponsored research projects. Reducing the number of research projects for drug companies is seen as a bold undertaking, as the companies themselves take on the majority of the funding. The Los Angeles Times reports that in FY 1998, the L.A. research program carried out 125 drug company studies, providing more than $10 million in funding. All were abruptly suspended in April. Since Hays began her tenure, all 322 laboratory and animal studies at the LA facility and the affiliated Supulveda Ambulatory Care Center, and 153 of the 352 clinical studies have resumed. Hays was the first person Washington officials thought of to "rescue this once-proud research center, birthplace of the CT scanner and the nicotine patch." According to officials, she "possesses long experience with the VA," including a stint as the director of the entire agency's medical research and former chair of eight VA commissions. While many argued that the sanctions against the hospital were "too sweeping," Hays called the action "a necessary wake-up call" noting that many staff members "didn't understand the issues." She added, "They do now" (Monmaney, 8/9).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.