Nationwide effort aims for more diversity in clinical drug trials

JN: 3/16/14

Thousands of volunteers participate in clinical trials across the United States each year, all hoping that the experimental treatment will help ease their pain or cure their disease. While the trials target a host of different ailments, there is one thing most of those patients have in common. The vast majority are white, a well-documented fact that health care experts say has changed little over the years and is cause for alarm.

Caucasians comprise 67 percent of the U.S. population but are 83 percent of drug industry-funded clinical trial participants, while blacks represent 12 percent of the population but just 5 percent of trial participants, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Hispanics are 16 percent of the population, but just 1 percent of clinical trial volunteers.

An FDA report in 2013 analyzed the disparity in clinical trial participants for specific diseases. Among the findings, it showed that prostate cancer is twice as fatal for blacks as for whites, but only 4 percent of trial participants are black. It also found that cancer is the number one cause of death for the Asian population, although that group represents less than 3 percent of trial participants. Read More