AstraZeneca has launched a new initiative to address the lack of diversity in U.S. clinical trial participants. The big pharma company will provide significant grants to the National Medical Association (NMA), which represents more than 30,000 African American physicians, and the Interamerican College of Physicians and Surgeons (ICPS), a network of more than 39,000 physicians throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
AstraZeneca expects that its ongoing partnership with NMA and ICPS will ensure that physicians of diverse backgrounds receive the education and tools they need to participate as investigators in clinical trials.
Several top-20 pharmaceutical companies have approached the challeng getting racial and ethnic diversity in their study groups by trying to engage a more racially diverse group of investigators or those with access to diverse patient populations. These have mostly been internal initiatives. AstraZeneca’s decision to partner with these well-established organizations is a new approach to gaining access to African American and Hispanic patient populations and one that could lead to some real success.
Alfonso Alanis, M.D., chairman and chief executive officer of Anaclim, a minority-focused contract research organization (CRO), said, “One of the key reasons minorities do not participate in clinical trials is that they are not invited. Their physicians do not participate.”
Anaclim has created a database of about 1400 investigators with access to minority populations.
African American and Hispanic populations continue to grow as a proportion of the U.S. population and, in some diseases, have higher incidence rates than caucasians, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Industry needs to study these groups in proportionate numbers in clinical trials to complete safety and efficacy profiles and to be able to market their drugs to these groups.
Increasing participation of racial and ethnic minorities in clinical trials requires a multi-pronged approach. AstraZeneca’s partnership with NMA and ICPS is a step in the right direction, but there is much to do still to get the clinical trial participant population to reflect the U.S. population overall.