Blacks May Be Less Likely To Enroll In Clinical Trials

Armen Hareyan's picture

Many black U.S. residentsare less likely to participate in clinical studies, possibly because theydistrust physicians and have concerns that they could be harmed by the studies,according to a study published online Monday in the journal Medicine,Reuters reports (Dunham, Reuters,1/14). For the study, lead author Neil Powe, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, and colleagues surveyed 717 people at 13 outpatient medical clinics inMaryland. Ofthose people, 460 were white and 257 were black.

The participants were told that the survey was "meant to exploreindividuals' attitudes about medical research and physicians who perform suchresearch, and reasons for agreeing or declining to participate in clinicaltrials," according to MedPage Today (Gever, MedPage Today, 1/14).

The study found that blacks were 60% as likely as whites to participate in amock study of a heart disease drug. Fifty-eight percent of blacks thought theirphysicians would willingly give them experimental drugs without their consent,compared with 28% of whites, according to the study. In addition, the studyfound that 25% of blacks said that their physicians would recruit them forrisky clinical trials, compared with 15% of whites.


Powe said the distrust results in fewer blacks participating in research,adding, "If we don't test therapies in certain populations, how can we expectto know anything about whether they work in those populations?"(Emery/Kohn, Baltimore Sun, 1/15). According to Powe, blacks might beunwilling to participate in medical studies because of "gross pastexamples of unethical medical research with ethnic minorities," such asthe Tuskegeeexperiment that began in the 1930s and lasted for about 40 years. In thatstudy, low-income black men with syphilis were unknowingly left untreated.

Powe said, "So long as the legacy of Tuskegeepersists, African-Americans will be left out of important findings about thelatest treatments for diseases, especially those that take a greater toll onAfrican-Americans and consequently may not have ready or equal access to thelatest medicines." According to Powe, the mistrust "may be fixable bycommunicating better with patients and taking actions that improve mutualrespect and understanding" (MedPage Today, 1/14).

Clinical Trial ServiceProviders

In related news, the Indianapolis Star on Tuesday examined efforts by theIndiana-based clinical trial service provider Innovative Clinical Concepts, a company that works to enroll inclinical trials more community-based physicians who treat minorities andunderserved populations. A Pharmaceutical Research andManufacturers of America report released last month found that such efforts are starting to makea difference for hundreds of medications that are being developed to treatmajor diseases that disproportionately affect blacks or are a major cause ofdeath among blacks (Adams, Indianapolis Star, 1/15).

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