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Minorities Continue to be Underrepresented in Clinical Trials

Update Date: Mar 22, 2014 10:26 AM EDT

Clinical trials are important because they help determine the effectiveness of medications for people with different illnesses. Even though medications are created to treat people regardless of ethnicity and body size, several studies have found that the effectiveness of certain medications can be jeopardized based on these variables. In order to prevent that, clinical trials should include a diverse group of participants. However, according to a new report, minorities continue to be underrepresented in these clinical trials.

For this study, the researchers from the University of California, Davis, Comprehensive Cancer Center calculated how many minorities participated in clinical trials. Medical research studies that are funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) are required by Congress to include non-white minorities. The researchers reviewed around 10,000 NIH-backed clinical trials that took place in January 2013.

The researchers found that only around 150 trials were centered on one particular ethnicity or minority group, which meant that minorities only participated in two percent of all clinical trials. When the researchers examined cancer rates specifically, they found that Hispanics and blacks only made up about 1.3 percent of all cancer clinical trials examined in the study. Hispanics and blacks tend to have higher rates of cancer than other ethnic groups.

"The proportion of minorities in clinical research remains very low and is not representative of the U.S. population with cancer. What is needed is deliberate effort. Minorities are not hard to reach. They are hardly reached," study leader Moon Chen, the cancer center's associate director for cancer control, said reported by Medical Xpress.

"Whatever happens in the laboratory or in the clinic needs to be applied to solving real-world problems, and those relate to the disproportionate effects of cancer and other diseases on racial and ethnic minorities."

The researchers also examined 42 summaries published between January and March 2013. The team analyzed how these summaries discussed minority participation in these trials. They found that only five of these summaries had talked about the effects of race and ethnicity.

"The solution is not changing the attitudes of minorities but rather in ensuring access to health research. Clinical trials should be designed to include and focus on specific populations, and scientific journals should insist on appropriate representation and analyses of NIH-funded research by race and ethnicity," the authors concluded.

The study was published in Cancer.

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