Racial minority participation in clinical trials increase with information and access

Racial minorities participate in health research studies at the same rate as whites when they meet the study criteria and when they are informed about the opportunity to enroll in the study, according to an article by researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Yale School of Medicine.

Published in the December 6 PLoS Medicine, the study debunks the common belief that racial minorities are less willing to participate in research studies, and the authors suggest that minority involvement is linked more to access than attitude.

"It's been known for years that black patients are less likely to enroll in research studies than white patients," said a study author, Cary Gross, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine at Yale. "This is a problem because research studies are how we determine which new treatments are effective and which ones shouldn't be used. If the participants in these studies do not reflect the diverse nature of the population, then it won't be clear whether new treatments that may have been promising in the study setting actually work in the real world."

According to lead author Ezekiel Emanuel, M.D., chair of the Department of Clinical Bioethics at NIH, there is a belief that racial and ethnic minorities are less willing to participate in health research due to a distrust of the research community stemming from past abuses. The most notable is the Tuskegee syphilis study, in which hundreds of poor African American men in Alabama were followed for decades without being told they had syphilis, promised treatments and prevented from getting penicillin to treat their syphilis.

The study found that whatever attitudes blacks and other ethnic minorities may have, they are still willing to participate in research when there is an opportunity to do so. The authors say that the main barrier to participation is access, knowledge that these studies exist, eligibility criteria that ensure minorities can part

Contact: Karen N. Peart
Yale University

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