More Latinos Desperately Needed for Clinical Trials

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For years, studies have shown that Latinos have a profound mistrust of doctors and scientists.

Consequently, Latinos participate in clinical trials at far lower rates than other ethnic groups, which perpetuates the health disparities seen with many diseases like Alzheimer’s and certain cancers. This also makes it harder for researchers to find treatments that work best for Latinos.

Minorities actually represent less than 30% of those enrolled in clinical trials sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), according to a recent report.

Latinos comprised less than 7.6% of trial participants.

“There hasn’t been a single [prostate] screening trial including a significant number of Latinos or blacks … yet it impacts our practice and we have no data to know if it works in this population,” Dr. Eliseo Perez-Stable, director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, recently said.

Why Don’t Latinos Join Clinical Trials?

There are many reasons:

  • Lack of information
  • Disparities in access to health care
  • Not being fluent in English
  • Cultural fears, such as fear of being a guinea pig

Latino cancer patient smiling with doctor nurse clinicGovernment agencies, medical centers and nonprofits are growing more aware of the gap. They are striving for more diversity in research groups.

They are addressing problems with a lack of access and knowledge about the studies, as well as a general distrust in healthcare institutions and expectation of side effects from experimental drugs.

Why is Diversity Important in Clinical Trials?

With different genetic makeup, members of minority groups, including Latinos and African-Americans, may react to drugs differently. Or they may need other types of treatment because of a greater risk for certain diseases and conditions.

Hence, it very important to promote more participation of minority population like Latinos.

Researchers should test medical products in all groups of people to help ensure medical products are safe and effective in everyone who will use them. That’s why diversity in clinical trials is essential.

Certain populations can be more at risk for certain diseases (diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease) than others. So it is important for patients in those populations who are more likely to be treated for a condition to be included in a trial.

Important differences exist in how people of diverse groups respond to medical products. Information on those differences can then be included in the product labeling to help doctors and patients make treatment decisions.

Why Should More Latinos Participate in Trials?

Scientists believe that many factors influence various diseases among Latinos.

Many studies suggest that, the genetics play an important role in development of various disease like Alzheimer’s. Lifestyle and socioeconomic risk are other factors that affect the prevalence of various disease in Latinos.

Hence it is very important for researchers to understand Latino genetics along with socioeconomic factors needed in drug development and to fight the illness.

New efforts focus on diversity

In its All of Us project, the National Institute of Health’s funded program is emphasizing the importance of minority representation to make the genetic database the largest and most diverse of its kind.

With All of Us, the program plans to sign up 1 million people ages 18 and older for a nationwide program to provide detailed health profiles as part of an effort to advance medical care. All of Us will serve as a national research resource to inform thousands of studies, covering a wide variety of health conditions. Researchers will use data from the program to learn more about how individual differences in lifestyle, environment, and biological makeup can influence health and disease.

The All of Us website is now in Spanish!

Researchers are making additional strides to recruit more Latinos into clinical trials.

In March 2017, FDA launched a campaign to educate Latinos to encourage more participation in clinical trials.

Interactive videos featuring real Latina cancer survivors talking about clinical trials can help Latina breast cancer patients consider trials as a treatment option, according to a new pilot study led by Dr. Amelie Ramirez, director of Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio.

“Underrepresentation of minorities in clinical trials results in disparities of cancer outcomes and limits generalizability of the findings because researchers cannot study how minority patients respond to new treatments,” said Dr. Patricia Chalela, an investigator on Dr. Ramirez’s study team.

By The Numbers By The Numbers

84

percent

of Latino parents support public funding for afterschool programs.

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