Pharmacy research, outreach programs could grow at URI if voters approve Question 4

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KINGSTON, R.I. – October 26, 2006 –Some of its faculty are making critical discoveries about drug interactions while others are helping another state agency save millions in pharmacy costs. The University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy is benefiting our state, country and indeed the world.

But the College no longer has the space or technology it needs to grow in its crowded, outdated home—Fogarty Hall.

That’s why on Nov. 7 alumni and friends of URI are being asked to vote yes on Question 4, which would provide $65 million for a new home for the College and $7.8 million for Rhode Island College.

In one corner of Fogarty Hall, Professor Bingfang Yan conducts gene-based research on why some medicines work in one person and not in another. His worked is backed by $3.7 million in federal funding to examine critical drug interactions, how drugs are metabolized and the effectiveness of herbal remedies.

Despite being recognized by the National Institutes of Health as a leading biomedical researcher, he operates in severely outdated and cramped lab and office space.

Yan has attracted the attention of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the NIH with his research showing that Tamiflu can be rendered ineffective in patients also taking the anti-clotting drug Plavix. That’s an important finding because international and federal health officials are counting on the anti-viral Tamiflu to be a critical weapon in the fight against an influenza pandemic. More than 2 million prescriptions were written for Tamiflu in 2005, while more than 20 million Plavix prescriptions were written the same year, according to industry data.

The College’s Health Care Utilization Management Center, which operates out of the Fogarty Hall basement, has helped save the Department of Corrections nearly $5 million since 2002.

E. Paul Larrat, associate dean of pharmacy, and Rita Marcoux, assistant professor of pharmacy who runs the management center, oversee the program with the corrections department. But because there isn’t enough room in Fogarty, they are located in satellite offices in a building across the street.

They work with corrections officials, doctors and nurses to manage the medications for the prison system whose daily population averages 3,700 while its intake center processes 17,000 individuals per year. The department’s projected medication budget from 2003 through 2006 totaled $13.7 million, but its actual costs, thanks to efforts of the corrections medical team led by URI’s management, were $8.8 million for the same period.

One of the major arguments for a new building is that it would be able to house students, faculty and staff, as well as all pharmacy programs at a single site.