As we work to address problems within our healthcare system and improve patient outcomes, we cannot overlook the urgent need to increase clinical trial diversity. We are missing out on opportunities to decrease inequities and the chance to improve health science overall.
According to Food and Drug Administration data for 2020, 75% of drug trial participants were white, 11% were Hispanic, 8% were Black, and 6% were Asian. That is an unacceptable representation of our population, and reflects an urgent need to make clinical trials more accessible and attractive to communities of color.
Communities of color are often understandably skeptical of clinical trials. Studies like the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and decades of forced sterilization of African Americans and Latino Americans have created lasting fear and trepidation around medical trials. We still have work to do to establish trust in those communities. That’s why I have advocated for investments in public awareness and community outreach to clearly explain the importance and benefits of clinical trial participation.
The lack of sufficient diversity is harming patient outcomes. For example, even though the Prostate Cancer Foundation reports that Black men are 75% more likely to develop prostate cancer and are much more likely to die of it, the median percentage of Blacks in prostate cancer clinical trials funded by the National Institutes of Health in fiscal 2018 was only 8%. Similarly, even though Hispanic adults are 70% more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes, the median percentage of clinical trial participants was just 6%.