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Morehouse partnering to increase diversity in drug and research trials


Continuing to lead on issues of importance impactful to Blacks, Morehouse School of Medicine is taking part in a $10 million partnership aimed at making medical and drug research clinical trials more diverse.

The partnership announced last week is backed by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a major trade group representing drug companies. The partnership’s goal is to include more racially and ethnically diverse participants in medical and drug research. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration says 75% of clinical trial participants are white.

Morehouse School of Medicine’s president, Valerie Rice, said, “People of color face multiple barriers to participation, including job demands, transportation, and historical mistrust, but getting more people of color to participate in clinical trials is a matter of health equity. It is the first step in achieving health equity because people may want to participate in a trial but they don’t have the information or they’re not top of mind with that provider.” 

A statement from Morehouse said that the pilot sites will begin opening this summer, providing mentorship and training opportunities to help diversify the clinical trial workforce and connect patients to clinical trials. 

Rice pointed to the success of community outreach around coronavirus vaccines as an indicator of where efforts can lead. “I do believe that the presence of a historically Black medical school does add to the opportunity to have diverse people feel comfortable with coming and participating in a clinical trial,” Rice remarked. “We have been in the community, not just of the community.” 

During the next 18 months, the group will begin to form a network of community-based trial sites in minority communities. The first 10 trial sites will be in the Southeast and Southwest areas of the U.S. where researchers say there are the lowest rates of clinical trial participation. Specific site locations were not shared.

“We all know that clinical trials haven’t always reflected the patients in new medicines that it is intended to serve…,” said Stephen J. Ubl, president, and CEO of PhRMA. “Today we are taking an important step to help bring meaningful change. The initiative will be a sustained effort in partnership with community leaders to provide pilot sites with the resources they need to break down barriers and build successful, trusted clinical trial sites.” 

The Yale School of Medicine and Vanderbilt University Medical Center are also partners in the project, called Equitable Breakthroughs in Medicine Development.


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