Gays, Lesbians Excluded From Some Medical Studies

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Experts at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia are very concerned that doctors are needlessly excluding gay people from clinical trials that investigate a range of topics from cancer to diabetes and depression.

A study of 243 clinical trials related to couples and sexual function after various medical treatments showed that 37 trials explicitly excluded people in same-sex relationships, according to a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine Wednesday.

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"When I first saw this, I thought it was a fluke. The second time, I thought I'd dig deeper," said Brian L. Egleston, lead author on the paper.

Egleston decided to dig a little deeper so he and his colleagues searched through ClinicalTrials.gov, a database of more than 80,000 clinical trials sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, other government agencies and private industry.

The results showed an apparent the exclusion of lesbians and gay men from clinical trials in the United States is not uncommon, particularly in studies dealing with sexual function, the researchers said."It is likely that most gay and lesbian patients are unaware that their sexual orientation is being used as screening factor for participation in clinical trials," the authors wrote. "Researchers should be held to careful scientific reasoning when they develop exclusion criteria that are based on sexual orientation."

Egleston concluded his study by stating, “Our results indicate that exclusion of lesbians and gay men from clinical trials in the United States is not uncommon, particularly in studies with sexual function as an end point. It is likely that most gay and lesbian patients are unaware that their sexual orientation is being used as a screening factor for participation in clinical trials. Researchers should be held to careful scientific reasoning when they develop exclusion criteria that are based on sexual orientation.”

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