Lasagna, Louis (Cesare) 1923-2003

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LASAGNA, Louis (Cesare) 1923-2003


See index for CA sketch: Born February 22, 1923, in Queens, NY; died of lymphoma August 6, 2003, in Newton, MA. Physician, educator, and author. Lasagna, a dean emeritus of the Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University, was best remembered as a pharmacologist who was at the forefront of placebo research, advocated changes in drug research improvements in medical ethics, and wrote an updated version of the Hippocratic Oath. He earned his bachelor's degree at Rutgers University in 1943 and his medical degree from Columbia University in 1947. After doing his internship and residency, he was hired as an assistant professor of pharmacology at Johns Hopkins University in 1954. He remained there through the 1960s, becoming an associate professor in 1959. Lasagna next joined the University of Rochester faculty in 1970, teaching there as a professor of pharmacology and toxicology until 1986. During the early 1970s he founded the Center for the Study of Drug Development, which later became part of Tufts. While still working as a professor of medicine at the University of Rochester until 1994, Lasagna also joined Tufts University in 1984 as a professor of pharmacology and psychiatry and was dean of the Sackler School of Medicine there. Lasagna made a name for himself in the field of pharmacology at the beginning of his career when he published the paper "A Study of the Placebo Response" in 1954. Here, he showed that the psychology of a patient could be an extremely important factor in medical treatment. The paper was so influential in the medical community that in 1997 the journal Lancet named it one of the most important medical achievements in the history of medicine. Throughout his career, Lasagna emphasized that doctors maintain an empathy for their patients and always consider the psychological effects of their treatments; he rewrote the Hippocratic Oath in 1964 to remind doctors they are treating human beings, not diseases and injuries, thus creating the modern version of the oath that is still often used in medical schools today. Lasagna often testified before Congress, too, favoring reforms to the drug industry that would improve drug testing before new medicines went to market. The recipient of honorary degrees from Hahnemann University in 1980 and Rutgers in 1983, Lasagna was the author of The Doctors' Dilemmas (1962), Life, Death and the Doctor (1968), and Phenylpropanolamine: A Review (1988); he also edited Controversies in Therapeutics (1980).



American Men and Women of Science, 21st edition, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2003.


Boston Globe, August 8, 2003, p. 80.

Chicago Tribune, August 12, 2003, section 1, p. 11.

Los Angeles Times, August 9, 2003, p. B20.

New York Times, August 11, 2003, p. A13.

Washington Post, August 10, 2003, p. C11.


Tufts e-News, (August 8, 2003), "Visionary Researcher, Physician Mourned."