Clinical research center praised

Mirror photo by Walt Frank / Dr. Alan Kivitz talks with patient Rosemary Powdermaker of Vinco about her treatment plan at the Altoona Center for Clinical Research recently.

DUNCANSVILLE — A world class research facility is hidden just south of the Meadows Intersection.

Founded in 1992, the Altoona Center for Clinical Research is a world class facility where research work focuses on the development of newer strategies for treating patients with arthritis and rheumatic disorders.

Since its founding, the center has conducted more than 1,000 clinical trials for drug companies such as Pfizer, Lilly, Amgen, Novartis, Abbvie and many more.

“We are like a hidden secret,” said founder Dr. Alan Kivitz, who has more than 37 years of experience treating patients with arthritis and rheumatic disorders.

Kivitz has also authored and co-authored more than 500 research articles, abstracts and studies on subjects covering osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and pain management.

The Altoona Center for Clinical Research is an outgrowth of the Altoona Arthritis & Osteoporosis Center, which Kivitz founded at 711 Logan Blvd., in 1982.

“I was not able to do research that was very interesting to me. There had been so much growth in rheumatology in the last twenty years, it was an ideal time to get into clinical research,” Kivitz said.

Needing more space, the businesses moved to 175 Meadow­brook Lane in 1999.

Kivitz said in order for a new medicine to get on the market and for the Food and Drug Administration to approve it, it must go through clinical trials.

“We study medicines for people who have all diseases a rheumatologist would care for,” Kivitz said. “We do research for every major pharmaceutical company that has medicines for our diseases. When a company has a new medicine, it chooses from among research sites around the country and the world. We are one of the facilities who do the testing to get new medicines approved for our patients. Our research is known worldwide.”

“We are one of the go-to research centers in the United States,” Kivitz added.

“Alan’s research center is our go-to site, he is absolutely the best. You are always looking for people who do quality work — he has one of the best research sites in the country. The people who work for him are both competent and pleasant,” said Dr. Robert Levy, director of clinical development at Primus Pharmaceuticals Inc., Scottsdale, Ariz.

The first step for a patient is to receive a diagnosis.

“Our first order is to establish what kind of arthritis they have. We can offer the patient, once we have a diagnosis, clinical trials for medicines that are not available in our region,” Kivitz said.

Clinical trials can vary in length.

“Tests can last up to years before they have enough data to show it is safe to go to the FDA some never get to the FDA. Some last only two weeks. We also have some that can last ten years. Enbrel and Humira lasted more than ten years. Humira has been on the market since 2002. We started to study it in the late 1990s before it had a name,” Kivitz said.

There are many advantages for patients to participate in clinical trials.

“The nice part of participation for patients is they receive care for no charge. Participants in clinical trials can play a more active role in their own health care, they gain access to new research and treatments before they are widely available and they help others by contributing to medical research,” Kivitz said.

Today, the center has about 35 employees.

“Employment has been relatively steady. We are as busy as we ever have been. We have been able to retain staff members for decades and decades. Some have been here over 30 years. We have an incredible staff to make what we do work to enhance our reputation,” Kivitz said. “The key to our success is we are good at what we do, we have a good reputation for excellence. We have an unbelievable staff.”

Kivitz said the future is bright for the center.

“I think there is a continuing need for more medicines, continued development for more products for all of the diseases we take care of. We are now studying medicines to regrow cartilage, there is a new need for rheumatoid lupus. As long as there is development of new medicines and the need to test them, we will be busy,” Kivitz said.

The center is currently enrolling for more than 60 studies on a wide variety of conditions such as osteoarthritis of the knee and/or hip, lupus, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and more.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.