To get a drug to market can take years. The prescriptions that fill medicine cabinets are, in many cases, the result of an amazing amount of work and testing.
The ultimate goal is to have a drug help people, but at the same time, be safe and not detrimental to their health.
Enter Dr. Frank Seney, medical director of clinical research for Tidewater Physicians Multispecialty Group (TPMG).
Seney oversees medical studies that test different medicines and medical devices that companies are trying to get to the public. The TMPG office participates in national trials that test the effectiveness of treatments for all types of ailments and diseases.
“It’s wonderful to make a difference in people’s lives,” Seney says. “To come up with something new, it’s really nice to do that.”
TPMG opened the clinical research office in 2016. It was the perfect fit for Seney, who was a practicing nephrologist and chief medical officer at Mary Immaculate Hospital. He has a background in research and was excited at the prospect of returning to it. From 1985 until 1991, he served on the faculty of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, where he taught nephrology and managed a research lab.
“I was excited about this opportunity. Research always appealed to me. I
really enjoy helping people,” says Seney, a Hampton Roads native who graduated from University of Virginia and attended the medical school at Medical College of Virginia. “It’s rewarding to contribute in this way. Everything aligned very nicely.”
The TPMG office has conducted studies that address coronary artery disease, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney disease and asthma.
“Typically, I or one of our physicians hears about a study, and we start a dialogue with the sponsor,” says Seney, 65.
If the sponsor accepts TPMG as a test site, then Seney begins to enroll patients. Oftentimes, people are recommended for the studies through their personal doctors. There is a very strict protocol for how the studies run.
“People are always treated fairly, and it’s important for us that they understand what is involved,” he says. “You have to weigh the benefits and the risks.”
If a person participates in a study, he or she will not know immediately if a placebo or a sample of the new drug or device being tested is received. Patients are told the risks and the benefits. The FDA oversees the studies, which usually has a national scope.
“A common response by people is very altruistic. They say ‘there may or may not be benefits for me, but I’m interested in doing something for the good of all’,” Seney says. “I hear that quite often. It’s a neat thing to hear that.”
Patients’ progress is monitored by Seney and results are reported to the sponsor. The sponsors never know the participants’ names.
“Privacy is always respected,” he says.
And if, for whatever reason, Seney is not happy with the results he is seeing in a particular patient, he has the authority to stop the testing.
“Above all, I am about the welfare of a patient,” he says. “The ethics of this are paramount.”
The results of the studies have the potential to make a significant difference in people’s lives and health down the line. Studies power researchers’ and doctors’ abilities to help the sick and cure disease. The results can also bring about immunizations that can protect people from certain ailments.
“As long as people have diseases we don’t know how to treat or cure, we will always need more studies,” Seney says. “This is how new treatments are devised. They are very important for the future.”
TO THE POINT
Dr. Frank Seney, medical director of clinical research
Tidewater Physicians Multispecialty Group
Address: 860 Omni Blvd., Ste. 111, Newport News, VA 23606