The impacts of Covid-19 on the Black community has highlighted many gross inequalities within healthcare. Obstacles such as healthcare access, discrimination, and gaps within education and income have come to the forefront, but increasing minority representation in clinical trials is not to be overlooked in addressing health disparities.
The lack of diversity in medical trials is so pervasive that it can result in uncertainties surrounding new drug development. For example, in clinical trials for Ninlaro, a drug intended to treat multiple myeloma, less than 2% of patients were Black, despite Black people comprising 20% of Americans suffering from the disease. With the highest death rates and shortest survival rates of any group in the United States for most cancers, it is imperative that these studies are better reflective of the population they affect.
There are several approaches to addressing underrepresentation in clinical trials. Research institutions need to be more active in connecting with trusted members of the black community. Physicians are likely to feel more comfortable prescribing medication to their black patients if they are appropriately represented throughout the study. Also, spreading education on the importance of taking part in these trials and awareness of the immense benefits will encourage voluntary participation within black communities. Increasing black enrollment in clinical trials alone is not sufficient. Research institutions should make an effort to recruit more Black doctors and staff to establish a sense of trust. Also, being vocal about accommodations with time conflicts due to work, transportation etc. are necessary so that patients do not feel pressured to withdraw from a study that doesn’t align with other primary commitments.