Diversity in Clinical Trials: What Students in Clinical Research Courses Should KnowJune 18, 2019
A major benefit of clinical trials is the ability to test on multiple participants, ensuring that an outcome isn’t just tied to one person. However, the diversity of these multiple participants is important, to ensure that the results coincide with how the drug will be used once approved.
Sex and race can play a part in how medications work and whether a person is likely to participate in a clinical trial. Read on to learn a little bit more about what you should know about making studies inclusive, accurate, and effective.
Why Diversity Matters for Effective Clinical Research
Diversity of participants in clinical trials is a major issue. Without it, studies can fail to serve everyone who needs the product. For example:
- Certain drugs are less or more effective depending on what population they are given to.
- Certain diseases are more common in specific populations.
- Many medications end up being tailored for Caucasian males who are financially well-off, because that is the population that was studied.
With these issues in mind, it only makes sense to prioritize and improve diversity within trials.
An Example of Why Students in Clinical Research Programs Value Diversity
As a student in clinical research courses, you are choosing to help others through your career, which is why diversity within trials is so important to the work you will do. For example, the drug albuterol (also known as salbutamol) is a bronchodilator, which increases airflow to the lungs by dilating passages. It is on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines, for its effects in treating asthma.
Many African-American and Puerto Rican children do not respond to albuterol, but it is effective with most Caucasian children. In this case, a lot of people were given a drug that doesn’t help them. This is because:
- In clinical trials, almost all testing had been done on people of white European descent
- African Americans and Puerto Ricans have the highest prevalence of asthma and mortality due to the disease, but the lowest drug response to this medicine.
Barriers to Consider While in Clinical Research Courses
In a clinical research program, you are training to work in a world with a diverse population. A drug that will be available to the world after approval needs to be tested on a similarly diverse group. Otherwise, important safety issues could be missed, or ineffectiveness could appear. There are many barriers that should be considered, such as:
- Financial and geographical barriers
- Eligibility criteria
Financial barriers appear when studies are expensive to travel to. By providing reimbursements for travel, a wider net can be cast and more people will have access to the study. Similarly, geographical barriers can be removed by placing studies in locations with diverse populations, such as Toronto.
Broadening eligibility criteria to include as many people as possible once again casts a wider net and opens more doors.
In addition to these issues, diversity in research teams is also important. If studies aren’t run by diverse people, participants may not feel as comfortable, safe, or understood and may be more reluctant to take part. By improving on methods to lift these barriers, clinical trials can strive to be more diverse and accurate.
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