The FDA has approved 22 new drugs in 2016, and there are 31,468 patients participated in clinical trials in total. We have been encouraging patients to join clinical trials by showing patients the benefits for them and future generations. However, we should also focus on the diversity of patients in clinical trials, rather than only increasing the total number of patients. Among all the patients participated in clinical trials in 2016, 48% were female patients and 24% were patients with color, which does not correlate with the population percentages of women and people of color in the nation. According to 2010 census, there are approximately 51% women and 30% people of color in the U.S. It is evident that women and people of color are under-presented in clinical trials, which could lead to different drug effects on women and people of color. Therefore, it is essential to encourage more minority patients to participate in clinical trials.
To recruit minority patients in clinical trials, there are serious barriers that need to be addressed. According to a Forbes report, the biggest obstacle is the lack of encouragement or support from the attending physician. Many doctors are either unaware of relevant clinical trials for their patients or not spending sufficient time on each patient. In a 2000 Harris Interactive survey, 80% of cancer patients were unaware of their potential clinical trial options. Additionally, in a 2013 Zogby survey, more than 50% of patients were still unaware of clinical trials, and only a quarter of patients learned of clinical trials from their physicians. Thus, raising the awareness of the existence and benefits of clinical trials is extremely necessary. One big reason that patients are not aware of clinical trials is due to their physicians failing to introduce clinical trials to their patients. Forbes pointed out that “with the increasing pressure to see patients more and more quickly, they simply don’t have the time to engage in lengthy discussions with patients.” However, as a physician, listening to their patients, asking for patients’ needs and helping patients as much as possible is crucial. Especially for minority patients, their diverse backgrounds may require special needs from their physician. Also, the effect of the same treatment can vary enormously across different patients. Therefore, it is vital for physicians to communicate properly with each minority patient. One communicating strategy is that doctors should transfer their language to one that different patients can understand, which will help awareness amongst minority patients. Besides, during the whole process of clinical trials, patients should decide how they want to be part of any of the processes, and physician takes the significant role of guiding and suggesting their patients. Another possible reason that stop minority patients from joining clinical trials are that many patients misunderstand and believe that an experimental treatment must be better than the standard, hence, they would rather take a placebo than finding a standard treatment through clinical trials.
We are a nation of immigrants and diversity is our reliable weapon to support society’s stability. To perfect our healthcare industry, we need to raise and spread the awareness of diversity and inclusion. Physicians are encouraged to engage with their minority patients, communicate with them, and provide the best treatments and clinical trials options for them. Physicians’ efforts can not only help minority patients at present but also benefit their future generations since there are biological changes as generations live and grow in our country. In the end, building trust and communication between physician and minority patients are the keys to recruiting more minority patients in clinical trials.
To further explore the importance of increasing minority patients recruitment in clinical trials, CHI is organizing 2nd Annual Breakthroughs in Healthcare Diversity Symposium on 1/9/18 in San Francisco, CA. The symposium is a leading collaborative symposium for patients, patient groups, clinicians, researchers, technologists, healthcare and life science executives, and diversity and inclusion advocates to discuss diversity and inclusion in healthcare. The symposium will discuss best practices, and exchange new ideas related to making healthcare more diverse, with a specific focus on understanding how to serve underserved patient groups, including racial and ethnic minorities, women, and the LGBT community. The symposium will also focus on helping provider, pharma, and other organizations who serve patients with the latest ideas and insights on how these organizations can become more diverse and inclusive in order to best understand the unique and diverse needs of the patients they serve. Attendees will learn the newest insights and ideas, discuss practical solutions, and meet industry and marketplace colleagues. Please click here for more information.
Stone, Judy. “How Can We Encourage Participation in Clinical Trials?” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 8 Jan. 2015, www.forbes.com/sites/judystone/2015/01/06/how-can-we-encourage-participation-in-clinical-trials/#1146b57c4d0c.
Tate, Wendy. “Diversity in Clinical Trials: Recruiting Women and Minorities in Research.” Forte Research Systems, Forte Research Systems Inc., 12 Apr. 2017, forteresearch.com/news/diversity-clinical-trials-women-minorities-research/.