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Visionary Researcher, Physician Mourned

Visionary Researcher, Physician MournedDr.Louis Lasagna – Dean Emeritus of the Sackler School of GraduateBiomedical Sciences and drug research pioneer – died thisweek at age 80.Boston

Boston [08.08.03] Dr. Lou Lasagna, dean emeritus of Tufts University'sSackler School of GraduateBiomedical Sciences, died Aug. 6 of lymphoma. A pioneer ofclinical pharmacology and the author of a modern version of theHippocratic Oath, Lasagna spent more than five decades as an educator,physician and researcher. He was 80.

“Thereis almost nothing that we do on a day-to-day basis in clinicalpharmacology and drug development that he has not influenced:controlled clinical trials, use of placebos, informed consent,”Tufts’ Dr. David Greenblatt – who holds an endowedchair at Tufts in Lasagna’s name – told The BostonGlobe. “He’s the Sigmund Freud of clinical pharmacology.”

His 1954article on the “placebo effect” in the American Journalof Medicine ushered in the concept that taking a pill –even if it doesn’t contain medicine – can help diminisha patient’s pain.

Internationallyrenowned for his research on drug development and testing, Lasagnaplayed a critical role in shaping the pharmaceutical industry.

“Ina number of articles for the popular press, he argued that beforea drug received approval, it should undergo a randomized, placebo-controlledtrial,” reported the Globe. “At the time,that approach was revolutionary, a fact that the editor of TheLancet magazine recognized in 1997, by including Dr. Lasagna’sarticle on a list of the world’s 27 most notable medicalachievements since the time of Hippocrates, about 400 BC.”

Lasagna madenumerous appearances before Congress to campaign for industryreforms.

“Lasagnagave crucial testimony to Congress in 1962 that resulted in majorchanges to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the regulationof the pharmaceutical industry,” reported the AssociatedPress. “After that, he was involved in many federalhearings and commissions on drug development.”

To many inthe field, Lasagna was a pioneer and visionary.

“Hewas absolutely right and well ahead of his time,” RobertTemple, associate director for medical policy at the U.S. Foodand Drug Administration’s Center for Drug Evaluation andResearch, told the Globe. “This made people carryout proper trials.”

But Lasagnawasn’t just an accomplished scientist – he was alsoa compassionate physician.

“[Asa medical school professor, Lasagna] encouraged students to developempathy toward their patients,” reported the Globe.“To that end, in 1964, Dr. Lasagna wrote an alternativeto the Hippocratic oath that all doctors take upon receiving theirdegrees. His revised version, subsequently adopted by numerousmedical schools, emphasizes doctors’ responsibilities tostress prevention over cure, to ask for help when needed, andto keep in mind the psychological aspects of disease.”

His ethicsand dedication to medicine had a lasting impact on many of hiscolleagues.

“Hewas fiercely committed to ensuring that the advancement of sciencewas an ethical enterprise,” Joan Rachlin, director of thegroup Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research, told theGlobe. “He cared certainly that the frontiers ofscience be advanced, but he cared equally that it be done withheart and humility. He really wanted science to be above reproach.”

For almost20 years, Lasagna served as dean of Tufts’ Sackler School.He established the Tufts Centerfor the Study of Drug Development – the only programof its sort in the country.

“Whathe brought to the discussion was a tremendous knowledge of theclinical development process, but more importantly, he was oneof the first to observe the relationship between regulation andinnovation,” Tufts’ Kenneth Kaitin, director of thecenter, told the Globe.

It was Lasagna’spragmatism that Peggy Newell, Tufts’ associate provost forresearch, remembers.

“Hewas a very decisive person,” she told the Globe.“If you brought hum an issue, a lot of people would takeit and mull it over. He would think of solutions very quickly.He had a logical mind and an ability to solve problems.”

Lasagna issurvived by his wife Helen, three sons, four daughters and eightgrandchildren.

 

 

 

 

 

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