Ellen McGirt and Jonathan Vanian, Fortune: November 5, 2021
The healthcare industry has long faced a major diversity problem affecting the clinical trials that pave the way for blockbuster medical treatments.
Historically, the type of candidates who have participated in clinical trials tended to be relatively white and homogenous, not truly representative of everyone who needs access to potentially life-saving treatments.
As Diana Zuckerman, the president of the National Center for Health Research, once told Fortune, the lack of Black female participants in original cancer studies unfortunately resulted in fewer research into triple-negative breast cancer, which affects Black women more than white women. As a result, the researchers developing cancer treatments at that time, “didn’t realize that the treatments that they were studying would not work on those types of cancer,” she said.
Increasingly, however, the healthcare industry is trying to enlist more people of color who come from underrepresented communities into clinical trials, with the hope of improving the quality of future medical treatments that can aid everyone. Pharmaceutical giants Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer were two healthcare firms, for example, that have recently made public their efforts to improve the diversity of their clinical trials.
One way Abbott is attempting to enlist more diverse clinical trial participants is by “purposely going into communities” that lacked access to clinical trials, Earnhardt says. This means opening up clinical trial sites outside of major metropolitan areas like New York City or San Francisco, which typically contain top-tier universities and healthcare centers. People of color who live outside of these urban centers face a number of hurdles trying to enlist in clinical studies conducted hundreds or even thousands of miles away from where they live.
Some of the new clinical testing sites Abbott has established are in places like Gilbert, Ariz., Jackson, Miss., Tallahassee, FL, and San Antonio, TX.
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