By Estella Fullmer
For Hometown News
EDGEWATER -- A great deal of research goes into each new drug that comes out in the market, including a flu shot that is supposed to keep you from getting the flu this winter.
Some of that research is being conducted here at Riverside Clinical Research by Bruce Hardee, Trish Hardee and their staff.
The family owned and operated facility at 346 N. Ridgewood Ave. does clinical trials on drugs for diabetes to rheumatoid arthritis and even the common cold.
"A couple of common drugs you may know of that we have worked with are Mucinex and Prilosec," said Aaron Cooper, the clinic's marketing coordinator. "We conduct clinical research trials for new medications, devices and other treatments."
RCR is getting ready to do a Phase 3 study with a drug to combat the influenza virus and is seeking volunteers to participate.
"We are doing our small part to one day eliminate many terrible illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis and even the flu," Ms. Hardee said. "But most people don't even know what we do here."
RCR is a multi-therapeutic clinic that conducts research on a variety of illnesses, except in the areas of oncology and infectious diseases. "We have staff that consists of LPN's, RN's, CCRC's, CRC's, Mas and paramedics, Ms. Hardee said.
There is no cost to a patient for the care given during participation in a study, according to Mr. Cooper. They do not accept insurance, but none is needed. Patients also will be reimbursed financially for their time and travel to and from doctor visits associated with the study. All lab work, diagnostic procedures, physical exams, doctor visits, medications and other medical care related to the study are free.
"We are funded by the pharmaceutical companies," Ms. Hardee said. "None of it comes from the government. Everything is privately funded."
They also try to treat their patients like family. Ms. Hardee said they have even assisted patients in the past with utility bills or car repair bills. "We did that not just to keep the patient from dropping out of the study, but also because we wanted to help. Our patients are family."
She remembers not too long ago when she was struggling financially and knows what it's like.
"It's the right thing to do, to help when we can," she said. "Maybe that's why we are doing so well now; we've been there and now we have the means to give back."
The staff at RCR feels it is important to get to know their patients and insists on giving that personal touch. "We don't see our patients as a number," Mr. Cooper said. "We are all on a first name basis here."
Ms. Hardee recalled several instances where they screened a patient for research's sake and ended up with an early detection of cancer or HIV. "Without us doing that screening, they may never have known anything was wrong," she said.
In those cases, the patient is referred to a specialist or their regular doctor is alerted so they can receive treatment.
"Many of our patients have not had insurance or cannot afford the co-pay and they know we offer them free exams and medication once they are accepted into a clinical trial at RCR," Ms. Hardee said.
Without participating in a study, many would never receive treatment and likely would not have been diagnosed until the disease was much farther along.
Ms. Hardee has been in drug research for nearly 20 years. "We initially began a research relationship with Dr. Hole well over a decade ago and we resided in Port Orange under the name of Coastal Medical Research," she said, referring to Dr. Susan Hole of Shores Medical Center, also in Edgewater. "But about four years ago we had the opportunity to move the Center to Edgewater." She said.
"Under CMR we were very successful and were offered to be bought by a pharmaceutical group," Mr. Cooper said. "The business owners happened to speak with Dr. Hole and she was interested in conducting research again so it was a plan to open the doors to Riverside Clinical Research."
Very few people equate Edgewater with medical research, but there was more to the choice than just the close proximity to Dr. Hole's office.
"We chose Edgewater and New Smyrna Beach because the area is very nice," Ms. Hardee said. "We love the culture, community and amenities, not to mention that a lot of our staff resides here as well, some of which are Cuda alumni."
They started small in Edgewater in an office with only 1,000 square feet and have grown to more than 7,000 square feet in the last year. Now the facility has a small outpatient center next to Dr. Hole's office at 346 N. Ridgewood Avenue and a much larger in-patient facility near Dustin's BBQ. "Our two Edgewater facilities offer an outpatient office for quick study visits and a Phase 1 overnight facility for extended stay and overnight research studies," Mr. Cooper said.
"RCR, being a free standing research clinic, does not have the responsibilities of private practice points. Our doctor does have a private practice of her own, however. She is dedicated to research as well," said Ms. Hardee. "This leaves us with our staff fully concentrating on research points and multiple study responsibilities."
RCR also gives a lot back to the community. On Oct. 19, their team placed third in the New Smyrna Chili Cook-off. All the proceeds go to cancer research. "The event raised about $6,000 in just five hours and it's all going to research to end breast cancer." Mr. Cooper said.
They have sponsored a variety of local charities and community events since moving to Edgewater. Some things they have had teams participating in are Pop
Warner Cudas football league, the First Fridays program with the city, and a Walk for Alzheimer's where they raised over $1,000 that went to research to find a cure. They also did a charity event for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation that raised around $1,000. On Nov. 2, they will have a team in the New Smyrna 5K Run that is part of the Beach Weeks Celebration.
For more information about RCR, including how to participate in a study, visit the facility at 346 N. Ridgewood Ave., Suite B, Edgewater or go online to riversideclinicalresearch.com or call (386) 428-7730.