Walk-in Drug Trial Clinic NYC Upper East Side

Walk-in Drug Trial Clinic NYC Upper East Side

Wed, 17 Sep 2003

While ethics is currently a hot topic at universities, and ethics committees and conferences have become a growth industry within the research community, ethics has not affected the increasing commercialization of medicine and clinical trials.

Dr. Ronald Fieve, a Professor at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center runs a walk-in mental health clinic on the upper East Side of Manhattan at which he tests drugs on people for pharmaceutical companies. The clinic is a commercial venture which boasts of “an aggressive marketing campaign” seeking human guinea pigs. Fieve advertises in the media and in a big banner sign in the window.

Neither the prestigious medical center, nor the NYC or NYS department of health–nor even the FDA–questioned the ethics and inherent risks of such a commercial enterprise. These agencies were unconcerned about drug related adverse effects.

It was community residents who raised concerns about unseemly business practices and about the danger posed by these drugs’ side effects. The Community called a meeting, inviting Dr. Fieve. The NY Times reports that the doctor sent his daughter instead, and she did not answer questions as per instructions from the professor.

“I just get the feeling there’s something they don’t want us to know,” said Bernard Breslin, who lives on East 79th Street.

The New York Times

September 7, 2003, Sunday, Late Edition – Final

SECTION: Section 14; Page 6; Column 1; The City Weekly Desk

LENGTH: 574 words

HEADLINE: NEIGHBORHOOD REPORT: UPPER EAST SIDE;
A Clinic’s Walk-In Drug Trials Draw Questions and Silence

BYLINE: By STEVE KURUTZ

BODY:

A discount shoe sale, perhaps, but there are certain things that should not be advertised boldly. At least according to some residents of the Upper East Side, where there is growing concern over a mental health clinic and its business practices.

Fieve Clinical Services, in a town house on East 79th Street between Second and Third Avenues, conducts clinical trials of medications being developed by pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Parke-Davis. A recent posting on the clinic’s Web site sought people who have bipolar disorder to participate in a study, adding that time and travel costs would be provided in some cases.

The clinic’s founder and president, Dr. Ronald R. Fieve, is a clinical professor at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and a pioneer in the use of lithium to treat depression.

But local residents don’t care about accolades. Last fall, they became alarmed when they noticed a large, bright sign outside the clinic that said, “walk-ins welcome” below a list of treatable disorders that included schizophrenia. The clinic, which boasts of “an aggressive marketing campaign for patient recruitment,” has also advertised on NY1 News and in The Daily News.

Residents say that the walk-in policy and aggressive soliciting by the clinic, which is next to the Yorkville branch of the public library system — a favored spot for children — may lead to mentally disturbed people’s roaming the residential block. They contend that testing like the clinic’s is better suited to a hospital, where subjects can be tracked.

“This seems like a revolving-door operation, and we want to know if people are being monitored,” said Teri Slater, co-chairwoman of the East 78th Street Neighborhood Association Park/Lex. “Psychotropic drugs have reactions.”

Dr. Fieve insists that he does not treat schizophrenics. On a smaller sign now outside his clinic, the word “schizophrenia” has been taped over. When asked for further details regarding his clinic, Dr. Fieve declined to comment, adding only “read my book,” a reference to “Moodswing,” his popular work on treating manic depression.

Lately, Dr. Fieve’s silence has become as troubling to residents as his clinic. Betty Cooper Wallerstein, who heads the East 79th Street Neighborhood Association, wrote a letter to Dr. Fieve this past spring expressing neighborhood concerns. She has not yet gotten a response.

On Thursday night, Community Board 8 held a meeting in which Vanessa Fieve, the clinic’s director and Dr. Fieve’s daughter, was asked to address the community. But Ms. Fieve, acting on orders from her father, said she would not be able to answer questions because a reporter was present at the meeting.

“We follow all the clinical trials the way we are supposed to,” Ms. Fieve said, when pressed by the 20 or so community members at the meeting. She added that the clinic tracks participants through their Social Security numbers.

As for the word schizophrenia being taped over, Ms. Fieve said that schizophrenia is often misdiagnosed and that patients end up having other disorders.

Ms. Fieve then left, adding that she would be glad to answer questions if residents came by the clinic. Afterward, many residents said they felt even more dissatisfied.

“I just get the feeling there’s something they don’t want us to know,” said Bernard Breslin, who lives on East 79th Street.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

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