Researchers fight for ethnic diversity in trials

Concerned that they aren't addressing the different ways various ethnic groups respond to medication, researchers are mounting major efforts to recruit varied racial and ethnic groups for clinical trials. Right now, the average clinical trial volunteer is a white male between 18 to 40 years old--and this is a problem. Researchers have increasingly found that race and ethnicity can be important factors in how a patient responds to medications, with some drugs functioning better in certain groups, and other drugs proving ineffective or dangerous for some subgroups. In fact the world's first Phase III trial of an AIDS vaccine had to be repeated because there were few non-white participants.

Getting minorities to participate can be challenging, however; for example, African-Americans remember abuses such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, which denied poor African-Americans treatment to study the progression of the disease. To address the gap, researchers are resigning the way they recruit trial subjects. For example, some are moving trial sites to countries where certain ethnicities are prominent, such as Asia and Africa. Others are recruiting minority physicians, who may be able to draw in other non-whites more effectively. However, experts say that the best way to address the problem is personalized medicine, which addresses the traits of individuals using genetic models rather than generalizing across races.

To find out more about these efforts:
- read this United Press International piece