New COVID-19 therapies being tested in Valley

BROWNSVILLE — Want to help find new treatments for COVID-19?

Sign up for one of the new clinical trials being conducted by a research facility that just opened a new office.

PanAmerican Clinical Research has launched 10 clinical trials right here in the Valley to test new therapeutics developed by major companies.

“PanAmerican Clinical Research has been partnering with major pharmaceutical research entities to bring some of these therapies to the Rio Grande Valley so that we can offer the cutting-edge trials in treating COVID -19 to our patients right here,” said Dr. Christopher Romero, medical director.

Romero was the internal medicine specialist at Valley Baptist Medical Center before taking up his position at the new station opened by CEO Kathy Lenhard at 1416 Palm Blvd. PanAmerican has clinical sites throughout Latin America, but Lenhard decided to open a facility here to begin testing therapeutics.

“They all have to go through three phases of development,” Lenhard said. “Many of our trials are just in phase two. But this is all FDA regulation. We have to try and test these drugs in patients who are positive for COVID. Those are the patients we are enrolling, to see if these potential products will work to fight against the virus.”

The Brownsville office is the new PanAmerican facility for all of the United States for both vaccine and therapeutic testing.

“Everybody’s got a therapeutic or everybody’s got a vaccine, and we are just a testing center and that’s why I opened this center,” Lenhard said. “I opened this center just this year since the pandemic.”

This answers to the concerns Romero has expressed about Hispanics being underrepresented in COVID-19 studies.

“That’s one of the big goals of PanAmerican, to bring better representation of the Hispanic population into the clinical trials,” Romero said.

A recent report, he said, showed that 80 percent of participants in COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutic trials have been Caucasian.

“Historically, minority populations have been underrepresented,” he said. “That means that we don’t know for sure if they’re going to have the same benefit from these therapies being developed and approved. So this is something that’s important for the people of the Rio Grande Valley, that we can be a part and represented in these large clinical trials.”

Previous therapeutics for COVID-19 patients have involved the use of steroids to control inflammation. The therapeutics now being tested go even further.

“It’s looking at different ways to fight the infection,” Romero said. “They’ve been targeting the virus itself and helping the body clear the infection.”

Romero and Lenhard were heading down to Queretaro, Mexico, which is another testing site.

“What we’re doing is gathering data so that the pharmaceutical company can write the report, send it to FDA, they can review it and see if they’re going to be allowed to go to Phase 3,” Lenhard said. “It’s all about safety. It’s about a risk-benefit ratio. The benefit has to outweigh the risk. That’s all PanAmerican does is enroll patients in clinical trials that are sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry and the FDA.”

Lenhard said the facility needs to find patients the day they test positive for COVID because the pharmaceutical companies have given her staff a very tight window to randomize them into the trials.

Those wishing to participate in a trial can call the Brownsville clinic at 956-443-0016 or 956-443-0016.

For more information, look up the PanAmerican website at www.panamclinicalresearch.com/covid-19/

twhitehead@valleystar.com