Clinical studies are a vital part of our medical system. Not only do they help the doctors understand how medication can affect our bodies, but it also helps them determine how effective they can be. These studies help them determine what treatment would work best for a certain group of people or illness. Clinical studies have helped advance our knowledge and ensure that doctors can give their patients the best possible care for whatever ails them.
There is a problem with clinical studies however, and it could be very harmful for certain groups of people. Clinical studies are lacking diversity, and it's a major issue. Groups like minorities, women, poor, and the elderly are underrepresented in clinical studies, and it can compromise how effective their treatment is for some diseases. Certain groups are more prone to different ailments, and treatments may affect them differently. Since they are underrepresented in clinical studies, it's likely that we don't know the best way to treat them. Everyone is made up of different genetics, and these differences could mean that our bodies do not have the same reaction to drugs.
Because our bodies all react differently do drugs, it can be dangerous to prescribe them to groups of people that do not have the same genes as those who they were tested on. There are many known examples where issues have already arisen due to the differences in genetics. African Americans have a different side effect to a schizophrenia drug, for example. They were more likely to get the urge to move constantly after taking the medicine. There have also been issues in labeling, because men and women require different doses of some drugs. If clinical study groups were more heterogeneous, these issues would be easier to predict ahead of time.
So, why is it that minorities are not participating in clinical studies? Well, there are a couple of different reasons. First, some are afraid of being exploited by the medical professionals. Simply put, there is not a lot of trust because of poor ethical decisions in clinical studies in the past. Another reason is that it takes a little more time and money for the researchers to recruit minorities. While it's pretty discouraging to know that our medical research may be lacking, there is hope.
Saleh Stevens, CEO of Continental Clinical Solutions, a research company focused on minority participation says, "With the connectivity that social media platforms afford us, it is incumbent upon us to communicate the changing landscape to patient populations who are left either unaware or out of the study pipeline." Saleh found that by using social media, minorities that are misrepresented can be reached and informed about clinical studies. By helping them learn to trust the researchers and see the fiscal value in participating, it may be easier to recruit minority groups.
Although it is alarming to know the potential dangers of the missing information from clinical studies, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. With the new advances in social media and outreach, it may get easier down the road to recruit minorities to participate in the research. The more that we know about every different kind of person and how their bodies react to medication, the better we can be at treating disease.