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Clinical Trials with Ethnic Minorities

Posted on November 23, 2011

Jasjit S. Ahluwalia (bio) discusses the link between clinical trial retention and low socioeconomic status.


Many clinical trials and clinical research in general in this country have been with middle-class white Americans and in terms of medications and devices they, of course, have to be approved by the FDA.

So traditionally, pharmaceutical companies that lead research in that area have argued that they really need people who are going to be retained in studies and are going to be adherent to the protocol. So their angle is they want people that meet that criteria, and in their minds that's middle class America.

To some extent there's some truth to that. So this issue of working with underserved populations or in particular ethnic minorities, there's always a concern of retention in clinical studies and in clinical trials. I think those issues are driven more by socioeconomic status rather than race or ethnicity per se, so those are often confounding each other but it's more the issue that populations that are from low socioeconomic status, be they white, or African American or Latino, issues of retention are harder.

They're competing priorities. Sometimes their priorities are maintaining jobs, taking care of children, finding food for children, and things like that. Even transportation can be a major issue if there's not a car or things along that line. So traditionally researchers having found it easier to work with middle-class Americans or in their minds surrogate for that is white Americans, but the bottom line is that if you remain committed to the process and committed to it, often the clients themselves can be quite committed, so that we've seen retention rates of 80 percent and above at six months and 12 months, which is really almost on par with other researchers.

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Excerpted from an interview with the researcher conducted at the 2011 NHSN Conference held in Miami, FL.


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