Recruiting in general for clinical trials is always a challenging process, and even when participants are enrolled efficiently many trials fail to enroll a fully diverse population. This is troubling as not every group reacts equally
to drugs and treatments. Despite increased recognition that different therapies have different results among subpopulations, women and minorities continue to be underrepresented in clinical trials. Statistics bring this disparity into stark relief:
Unless we populate these trials with more diverse populations that more accurately reflect the gender and ethnicity of the actual patients who will one day use these drugs, we run the risk that they may not work in the same way or as effectively in the real world as they did in a trial. This shortcoming is clear from the fact that drug-related adverse events are a significant cause of hospital admissions. A study by Pirmohamed et al suggested that around 6.5% of all emergency hospital admissions were due to an adverse drug reaction although other reviews suggest lower numbers.
Diverse trial populations give researchers more confidence that their drugs will work in real world settings, and may reduce the risk of unexpected outcomes in patient populations that were not accurately represented. Consider adopting these best practices for attracting and engaging minority populations today to better position your clinical trials for the future:
Engage key stakeholders outside of the healthcare world.
To connect with patients in minority communities and win their trust, communicating through physicians and clinics is only a first step. Considering including popular community gathering locations as part of a recruitment plan, and participating in local events including health fairs. To be effective, handing out flyers or posting ads is not enough. The best results come from face-to-face engagements, where study staff can take an opportunity to educate people about clinical research, answer questions, allay fears, and talk about the value proposition of participation.
It is important to consider and address some of the logistical concerns patients may face when considering participating in a trial. This is particularly important when considering patients who work in hourly jobs with less flexibility. This may include providing transportation, child care, and other services through the clinic. Making sure prospective patients know these services will be available in the recruiting process can alleviate concerns about participation. Including such services in a study’s recruitment plan will add a small additional cost, but it can reap big dividends if it enables you to more quickly recruit a diverse population for your trial.
Cultivate relationships with patient advocacy groups.
Patient advocacy groups and patient education groups often hold the key when it comes to whether the community pays attention to your scientific efforts. Researchers should engage with advocacy groups before the trial starts to build awareness of your efforts, get their input on the best way to connect with all types of patients and provide them with information and resources to educate their members about your research. The more connected you are with these groups, the more likely you are to find the right recruits for your trial.