Former UR Professor, 'Father of Clinical Pharmacology,' Dr. Lou Lasagna Dies at 80

August 08, 2003

Dr. Lou Lasagna, former chair and professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the UR Medical Center, and dean emeritus of Tufts University's Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, died yesterday of lymphoma at the age of 80.

Dr. Lasagna is considered the "father of clinical pharmacology," largely a result of his considerable teaching and research in the field following his groundbreaking 1954 article on "the placebo effect" in the American Journal of Medicine. In 1997, this research was ranked by Lancet editor Richard Horton as among the world's 27 most notable achievements in a medical canon going back to Hippocrates.

The Columbia University medical school graduate taught generations of students at John Hopkins, at the University of Rochester and at Tufts University for more than a half century. Author of the Oath of Lasagna--a modern version of the Hippocratic Oath--his words are now widely intoned at medical school graduations across the country.

He authored two books--The Doctors' Dilemmas and Life, Death and The Doctor--and 655 journal articles.

Internationally renowned for his work on drug development and testing, Dr. Lasagna delivered key testimony before Congress at the Kefauver hearings in 1962, which resulted in major changes to the FDA and the regulation of the pharmaceutical industry. He was involved in nearly all of the subsequent federal hearings and commissions on drug development. In 1990, Dr. Lasagna chaired a blue-ribbon federal panel that recommended faster approval of new drugs for cancer and AIDS that were in the pipeline.

Dr. Lasagna taught at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine until 1970, when he became a professor and chairman of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. There, he also established the Center for the Study of Drug Development, which he relocated to Tufts in 1976 when he joined the faculty at the University's School of Medicine and made Boston his home. He stepped down as chair in 1980 to devote all of his time to teaching and research.

In 1986, the University established the Louis Lasagna professorship of Experimental Therapeutics, a chair now held by Dr. Ira Shoulson.

Lasagna is survived by his wife Helen, three sons and four daughters, and eight grandchildren.

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