Clinical Trials: Diverse Groups Of Participants Are Needed Now More Than Ever
Why Clinical Trials are Safe
Prior to new medicines being mass-produced and available to doctors to prescribe, clinical trials must be conducted in order to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of that medicine. Data from these clinical trials are required as a condition of approval by regulatory authorities such as the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Clinical Trials in the United States are regulated by the FDA. Before a new treatment is tested on any humans, the potential drug first goes through a strict review in laboratories. This is followed by testing on animals, such as rats and mice. After each phase, of research, the clinical trial team must submit an “Investigation New Drug” application to the FDA. This document is reviewed by the FDA along with an independent ethics committee.
Clinical Trials are extremely transparent with volunteers. The informed consent process is designed to protect participants. Prior to officially joining a clinical trial, a potential volunteer will be told what to expect and all things that may happen during the trial. After being told this information, the volunteer can decide whether he/she would like to join the trial and move to the next steps.
With COVID-19 being a major threat to the population’s well-being, clinical trial participation is needed now more than ever before. Along with overall participation, it is also important to remember that for a clinical trial to produce the best medicine possible, a strong sense of diversity is needed in testing.
Differences between people often lead to different responses to the same medicine. These differences can vary from the weight, ethnic origin, even geographic location. Each of these variations in a person’s genetic makeup could play a crucial role in how a treatment may work and how safe it may be. For example, African Americans sometimes need a different dosage — or a different drug altogether — for certain asthma, blood pressure, and heart conditions than white, Asian, or Hispanic patients with the same diagnoses. Instances like this are why diversity in clinical trials becomes so pertinent in success.
According to U.S. Census data, Black or African Americans represent 13.4% of the U.S. population, however, FDA reports that those populations make up only 5% of clinical trial participants. The disparity is even greater for those of Hispanic or Latino origin. They represent 18.1% of the U.S. population but only 1% of clinical trial participants. This underrepresentation leads to unknown variables in different medicines and could cause certain medications to not be equally safe and effective for all populations.
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