Many Factors Influence Minorities’ Low Participation in Medical Research
The Sacramento Bee on Tuesday examined minorities' participation in medical research. While government-funded research has worked to recruit more minorities, trials run by the pharmaceutical industry are less diverse, according to Ken Getz, senior research fellow at the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. Only about 15% of drug trials are funded by the federal government, Getz said.
Charles DeCarli, a neurologist and director of the University of California-Davis Alzheimer's Disease Center, added, "Pharmaceutical companies do not require minorities. They're just notoriously low" in minorities' participation in trials. He said, "New knowledge comes from diversity. The more diversity you have, the more likely you are to find scientific discoveries."
According to the Bee, factors such as the risk of participation, personal preferences, recruiting tactics and trust affect people's choices to volunteer for medical research. In addition, drug companies might not always be able to find a diverse volunteer population because of time pressure. Ken Johnson of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said, "You can't bring a clinical trial to a screeching halt because you don't fulfill some quota. You're talking about medicines that save people's lives." In addition, quickly recruiting, rather than carefully selecting a mix of volunteers, can be more cost-effective.
To help boost participation, many researchers have learned how to better explain their work, such as by using different languages and employing more diverse workers, the Bee reports. The Endocrine Society also has called for a national task force to address minority participation and has suggested that FDA require that trials have sufficient minority participation before approving new drugs.
Maria Alexander-Bridges, who headed the society's task force on minority participation, said, "We're trying to understand the disease genes that lead to risk and the genes that lead to differences in how a drug is metabolized in a particular person's body" (Peyton Dahlberg, Sacramento Bee, 2/12).